Following fraud investigation scandal

Parliament wants DUO to be investigated by external party, urgently

Fraudejagers DUO Foto: Shutterstock

Last week, an investigation conducted by the Higher Education Press Agency (HOP), Investico and NOSop3 revealed that there are serious flaws with the way DUO detects fraud among receivers of the basic student grant. Students with a migration background are being particularly targeted by their methods.

The House of Representatives is alarmed. Last Tuesday, the house overwhelmingly passed a motion to urgently commission an external party to conduct an independent investigation into DUO’s enforcement practices.

Students living with their parents are entitled to less money than those renting their own rooms elsewhere. DUO tries to catch students living with their parents but officially registered at another address by using algorithms and then chatting with neighbours.

MPs would like the investigation to focus on the algorithm to find out more about how it defines who is a suspect and who isn't. Moreover, the investigation should look into the assessment made by enforcement officers, which determines who ends up getting fined.

Only three parties voted against an external investigation: PVV, FvD and JA21. All other parties would like to know if there really are problems with DUO's detection methods, if so, what kind of damage has been done.

Burden of proof
A motion by the Green Left party (GroenLinks) took matters a step further, placing the burden of proof on DUO instead of the students, but that motion narrowly fell short of being accepted. Currently, students sometimes get into trouble because all DUO has to do is show that it is "plausible" that they are committing fraud, whereas students have to refute the suspicions with hard evidence. Shouldn’t it be the other way around? Why shouldn’t DUO be the one supplying the evidence?

To be exact, the motion suggested the external investigation into DUO’s methods to be followed by “a consideration of whether assigning the burden of proof to DUO would improve the position of students living on their own”. VVD, CDA and SGP didn’t agree, however. Together with PVV, FvD and JA21 they narrowly tipped the vote in their favour.

Incidentally, the Minister of Education, Robbert Dijkgraaf, has already ordered the discontinuation of DUO’s algorithm. For now, the student financing body is only allowed to work with random samples. He predicted that this will make the checks less effective “but, given the circumstances, I think it is the most sensible thing to do.”

In his view, GroenLinks' motion on the burden of proof takes things a bit too far. He would like to first investigate matters before implementing any such changes. His own party, D66, did support the motion.