Although a large percentage of Dutch parliament members are in favour, the bill introducing a "house for whistleblowers" is being heavily criticised. The criticism is largely directed at the combined investigatory and advisory role of the new authority and the investigative powers of this authority, which may interfere with investigations by existing criminal and regulatory authorities.
The bill currently pending before the Second Chamber envisages the introduction of a "house for whistleblowers", which will be part of the Dutch National Ombudsman's office. According to the bill, the "house" will have the combined functions of acting as an advisor to whistleblowers, an office for the reporting of issues and an investigator into the issues that are being reported. The "house" can also investigate how an employer has treated the whistleblower. The bill introduces a statutory safeguard against whistleblowers being dismissed and a legal requirement for companies that employ more than 50 employees to have a whistleblower policy in place. The bill applies to the public and the private sector.
The Dutch Association for Medium and Small Enterprises (VNO-NCW), the Dutch Association for Listed Companies (VEUO), the Dutch Minister of Internal Affairs and certain regulators (the AFM and DNB) are among some of the opponents of this bill. The combination of the advisory and investigatory functions in the same organisation is especially criticised. The objectivity of an investigator could be impaired if it is, at the same time, acting as an advisor for a whistleblower.
In addition, the authority granted by the bill to the "house for whistleblowers" to investigate reported issues is likely to overlap with the authority of several other authorities, such as the AFM, DNB or the Dutch Public Prosecutor's Office. The Minister and certain regulators have pointed out the potentially harmful interference with investigations existing authorities are undertaking. Additionally, some commentators fear that if enacted, the bill will increase the administrative burden for listed companies, especially since the Dutch Corporate Governance Code already requires a whistleblower policy to be in place.
Whether parliament addresses the criticism remains to be seen; the final debate on the bill is scheduled to take place in the next few months.
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