Today’s Opinion: Promising secrecy

POSTED: 04/6/11 12:57 PM

Is there a link between Bas Roorda’s dismissal and the fact that he filed a complaint at the prosecutor’s office? That is the key question to which only the Council of Ministers has the answer.

Roorda says that he does not know, because his dismissal letter only states that he has been dismissed because he violated to oath of secrecy. However, the prosecutor’s office has confirmed that Roorda filed a complaint about a “punishable act” – in other words: a crime. That circumstance could throw a spanner in the works for the forces that want to ditch Roorda, because there is a distinct difference between violating an oath of secrecy and reporting a crime.

When he was hired as the head of the finance department in 2009, Roorda took the oath of office. This is the literal text of that oath for civil servants that make the promise.

“I declare that to obtain this job I did not give or promise anything to anybody, nor will I give or promise.

I promise that I will not accept any promise, favor or gift from anybody to do or to neglect something.

I promise that I will do my duty conscientious and diligently and that I will complete the assignments given to me to the best of my abilities.

I promise that I will not reveal to others matters of which I have knowledge through my function and that I have been entrusted with as secret or of which I should understand the confidential nature, except to those to whom I have a obligation to report based on the law or on the basis of my function.

I declare this and I promise this.”

 

The oath of office prohibits civil servants from divulging professional secrets to outsiders. But the oath of office cannot stand in the way of civil rights. And one of those rights is this: citizens who bear knowledge of a crime are entitled (though not obliged) to report such information to the authorities.

 

Based on the confirmation we received from the prosecutor’s office yesterday, this is exactly what Roorda has done: he reported a crime.

Did he obtain knowledge about this crime through his work? We do not know this for certain, and we’d like to leave the guess work to others.

The Council of Ministers has not made the connection between the violation of the oath of secrecy and a report to the prosecutor’s office.

Officially, Roorda does not know whether this connection has been made, because his dismissal letter only briefly refers to the fact that he violated his oath of secrecy.

 

The prosecutor’s office is now contemplating what to do with the complaint. Not that something will come of it in a hurry, given the current work-overload, but somehow we suspect that the government would not be too happy if the prosecutor’s office decided to start this particular criminal investigation.

The government has one option to stop that process: an instruction from the Justice Minister. Chief Prosecutor Mr. Hans Mos thinks that such an initiative is highly unlikely. That’s a good thing, because we would not want to see a situation whereby the Justice Minister does something that feels like an obstruction of justice.

 

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