Some 10,000 families, some of whom were subjected to racial profiling, were forced to repay tens of thousands of euros in grants.
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte has announced the resignation of his government, accepting responsibility for years of mismanagement of childcare subsidies, which has wrongly led thousands of families to financial ruin.
Rutte, who heads the Liberal People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy, said he handed in his resignation to King Willem-Alexander.
“The rule of law must protect its citizens from an all-powerful government, and here it has gone horribly wrong,” Rutte told reporters on Friday.
The cabinet would remain in place as a gatekeeper to handle the coronavirus crisis for the time being, with an election already scheduled for March 17.
The resignation follows a parliamentary inquiry last month which found tax service bureaucrats falsely accused families of fraud.
The investigation report says around 10,000 families have been forced to repay tens of thousands of euros in grants, in some cases leading to unemployment, bankruptcies and divorce, in what it called an “injustice.” unprecedented”.
Al Jazeera’s Step Vaessen, reporting from Amsterdam, said: “The Prime Minister said that the most important thing now is to compensate these parents for their loss and suffering.
“But he also said that all documents and decisions made by the cabinet in the future will be open to the public. He no longer wants to be accused of things happening behind closed doors.
With some parents racially profiled during the investigation, the case underscored criticism of the Dutch state under Rutte, including an addiction to frugality and an inability to tackle systemic racism.
Orlando Kadir, a lawyer representing around 600 families, said Dutch radio stations had been targeted “because of the ethnic profiling of bureaucrats who chose their foreign-looking names”.
The scandal has now tarnished the carefully honed image of the liberal leader as a down-to-earth, outspoken politician whose traditional values have ringed with voters in the Netherlands since 2010.
Rutte arrived for Friday’s ministerial talks in the same low-key style he uses for any other day at the office – alone on his bike, jokingly dubbed “Rutte’s procession.”
The Netherlands is the third European country plunged into political uncertainty this week amid the coronavirus crisis. In Estonia, the government has resigned over a corruption scandal, while the ruling coalition of Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte is at risk of collapsing after a small partner party withdrew its support.