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Eva González Pérez: “Inequality of information ultimately also means inequality of rights.”

An issue that no one could ignore this year: the benefits affair. The file contains many victims whose lives have been completely disrupted. While this issue was only widely picked up by the media last year, lawyer Eva González Pérez has been putting these abuses on the agenda for years. Her commitment to the victims of the benefits scandal earned her a nomination for the 2022 Issue Award.

For González Pérez, the benefits affair started in 2014. This was the moment when benefits were stopped. Citizens received a letter stating that they would no longer receive it. This letter contained no explanation as to why the allowance had been definitively canceled instead of a temporary suspension, while legally this should have been the case. “What shocked me most at that moment was that people did not know at all what they had done wrong. Whatever you sent to the Tax Authorities, there was no response from the Tax Authorities. I also found the withholding of pieces very disturbing. To make matters worse, this even turned out to be a conscious method.”

According to Gonzalez Perez, the withholding of certain documents was indicative of the case. The resulting inequality of information made it difficult for her to do her work and to report the abuses she found. “Inequality of information ultimately also means inequality of rights. Inequality of legal protection. This means you are already 1-0 behind in advance.”

In December 2016, González Pérez received – in her opinion accidentally – a file from an employee during the litigation. Including his notes and observations. “This contained words that worried me enormously, such as inclusion and exclusion list and CAF. Afterwards I discovered that CAF stood for the method used to tackle fraudsters. I found the way these investigations were handled disrespectful. For example, I came across a study called “Hawaii. Because an employee loved faraway places. At those moments you start to wonder whether you are dealing with a serious organization that respects the legal protection of the citizens under investigation. I had no choice but to answer no to this question.”

González Pérez is modest about her role in putting the issue on the agenda: “If you ask what my role was, I would say identifying irregularities, pursuing further proceedings and also involving third parties. I started asking myself: who else thinks this? Then I approached Pieter Omtzigt. He was appointed to the permanent finance committee, including Renske Leijten and Farid Azarkan. In 2018, Jan Kleinnijenhuis and Pieter Klein also joined us. Finally, I also noticed that internally at the Tax Authorities it was noted that documents had been withheld. Employees sent me the missing parts. While I was on my own at the beginning, over the years more and more people joined in to help pull the cart. I always consider my role divided by six.”

González Pérez does not fully describe her work within the benefits affair as a success. “We're not there yet. Everything is running very slowly and we are still dealing with files not being provided. A success, I don't know if I've come to that word yet. It is on the agenda, but now comes the settlement. Once the victims have been compensated for the actual damage, I can close it. Then it worked. At that moment I would dare to call it a success.”

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