NGOs “regret” the situation regarding whistleblowers; Shula Rigsman may have violated the Code of Conduct

The mediaJune 9 ’22 16:00authorJulian Verbeek

Former NPO President Shula Rijxman may have acted in violation of the internal code of conduct for nonprofit directors, when she did not mention a special relationship with OC&W General Secretary Marjan Hammersma. According to the current head of the NPO, Frederieke Leeflang, this relates to ‘Principle 2’ of the Code of Conduct for Directors of Nonprofits under the heading ‘Act with Integrity’.

“Consulting with a compliance officer for advice would be reasonable,” Levlang says of her predecessor’s behavior at BNR. The media authority says it will “go deeper” into the matter, because that’s what the regulator says; “Any relationship that could appear to be a conflict of interest must be disclosed.”

Coaster and Van Dyck | This mouse has a tail

Information Minister Ari Slopp referred a whistleblower, who wanted to share information in 2020 about the nonprofit summit and potential “violations” that had occurred in part under the responsibility of Chairman Shula Rigsman, to the department’s top official for a top-secret conversation.

However, this senior official, General Secretary Morgan Hammersma – as revealed last week in the BNR podcast Koster en van Dijk – maintains a close friendship with then-Chairman of the NPO’s Shula Rigsmann. For example, the two booked a hotel room for a private visit.

Read also | Senior Official Puts Non-Profit Whistleblower in the Cold and MPs Want Explanation

NPO regrets the situation

In a written response to questions from the BNR, NPO President Frederieke Leeflang now says: “The non-profit organization regrets the current status of the whistleblower concerned. Whistleblowers should always be able to tell their story and be able to tolerate confidentiality.

Senior civil servant Marjan Hammersma told the media in a short statement that she can properly separate private and commercial companies. Chula Rigsmann – an alderman now in Amsterdam on behalf of the D66 – also indicated that he did not see a problem with the work and the special relationship with the senior civil servant. However, the House of Representatives is not satisfied with this statement, and a public parliamentary debate on the issue is now scheduled with the support of the coalition parties VVD and CDA.

Read also | Peter Omtzegt asks Parliamentary Questions about NPO Whistleblower

NPO . Code of Conduct

Shula Rigsman’s successor as NPO Chair, Frederieke Leeflang now refers to the NPO’s Internal Code of Conduct on behalf of the NPO. She tells BNR:

We at NPO assume that managers and all other broadcasters separate the private and work in a professional manner in the case of cordial relations. Also outside the workplace. This is also stated in our Code of Conduct for the Integrity of Public Broadcasting, Principle 2, Act with Integrity.

The Code of Conduct states that members of a nonprofit’s board of directors, in certain cases of potential “conflict of interest”, report to a special confidential advisor, or so-called compliance officer

Read also | The Secretary of State wants to “look internally” into the whistleblower’s affairs

Reporting a private relationship would have been ‘wise’

Levlang asserts that Rijxman did not inform the secret advisor about the special relationship with the higher official and adds that it would have been “prudent” to do so.

Leeflang: ‘Ms. Rijxman did not report the above relationship to the Compliance Officer. (…) The Public Broadcasting Integrity Code describes what it means to act with integrity. Depending on the specific circumstances of a case, a moment may arise when a consultation with a compliance officer is desirable. The law states: “By being open and friendly, they prevent their personal interests from becoming entangled with those of the media organisation.” We do not know the exact circumstances of the situation. Frederic Levlange says that it was reasonable to consult a compliance officer for advice.

“Every relationship that could contain the appearance of a conflict of interest should be reported,” says the Media Authority (CvdM), which is responsible for overseeing compliance with the nonprofit’s code of conduct. The question of whether to open an investigation is being considered and the case is currently being “deepened”. The Code of Conduct was introduced to the NPO in 2021 by Shula Rijxman himself.

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