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Ombudsman Metropool Amsterdam

Guidelines on proper conduct

In the performance of their duties, administrative authorities should deal with citizens and their interests in the right way. This means that they should take individual citizens seriously and show respect. They should not operate like impersonal bureaucratic machines. Nor should they ignore the human aspects of cases. If needed, they should seek direct personal contact and try to prevent or resolve problems via good communication. Although citizens are dependent on the cooperation or decisions of administrative authorities in many aspects of their lives, the two parties should deal with each other as equals. Authorities can achieve this by maximizing the involvement of citizens in decision-making processes and by acting on a basis of trust. That way, authorities can both operate effectively and make citizenship a meaningful reality. At the same time, of course, it is important that citizens adopt a constructive attitude. The standards of proper conduct established by the National Ombudsman of theNetherlandshelp administrative authorities to deal with citizens and their interests in the right way.

Essentially, proper government action is:


A. Open and clear

B. Respectful

C. Caring and solution focused

D. Fair and trustworthy



A. Open and clear


1. Transparent

Actions of public authorities  should be open and foreseeable so that it is clear to citizens why government is taking particular action.


2. Provide adequate information

Public authorities should ensure that citizens receive the information they need. The information should be clear, correct and complete. Public authorities should provide it proactively, not just when citizens ask for it.


3. Listen to citizens

Public authorities should listen actively to individual citizens, so that they feel that they are heard.


4. Adequate reasons

Public authorities should supply clear statements of the reasons for their actions and decisions. Such statements should explain the statutory basis for the action or decision, the facts taken into consideration and the way individual citizens’ interests have been taken into account. Citizens should be able to understand the statements.



B. Respectful


5. Respect for fundamental rights

Public authorities should respect the fundamental rights of citizens. Some of these fundamental rights guarantee protection against government action. For example: the right to physical integrity; the right to privacy; the right to respect for private and family life; the right to personal liberty; the right to freedom from discrimination

By contrast, other fundamental rights guarantee that public administration will take certain action. For example: the right to education; the right to health


6. Promotion of active public participation

Public authorities should maximise public involvement in their operations.


7. Courtesy

Public authorities should be respectful, courteous and helpful towards citizens.


8. Fair play

Public authorities should give citizens the chance to exhaust all the procedural avenues open to them and should ensure fair play in this respect.


9. Proportionality

In pursuing its aims, public authorities should avoid measures that have an unnecessary impact on citizens’ lives or that are disproportionate to the aims concerned.


10. Special care

When people are in government custody and therefore reliant on public authorities for their physical care, the authorities should provide that care.



C. Caring and solution focused


11. Individualised approach

Public authorities should be prepared to waive general policies or rules in cases where their enforcement would have unintended or undesirable consequences.


12. Cooperation

Public authorities should cooperate spontaneously with other governmental and non-governmental bodies in the interests of the citizen and should not send citizens from pillar to post.


13. Generosity  

When mistakes have been made, public authorities should show generosity and flexibility in remedying them. They should not ignore reasonable claims for compensation and should not burden citizens with unnecessary and complicated procedures and demands for proof.


14. Promptness

Actions by public authorities should be as prompt and effective as possible.


15. De-escalation

In all its contacts with individual citizens, public authorities should seek to prevent or halt escalation. Communication skills and a solution focused attitude are essential in this respect.



D. Fair and trustworthy


16. Integrity

Public authorities should show integrity and use their powers only for the purposes for which they were conferred.


17. Trustworthiness

Public authorities should act within the framework of the law. They should be honest and fair-minded. They should do what they say and should comply with judgments of the courts.


18. Impartiality

Public authorities should be impartial in their attitude and unprejudiced in their actions.


19. Reasonableness

Before taking any decision, public authorities should weigh up the various interests involved. The outcome of this process must not be unreasonable.


20. Careful preparation

Public authorities should assemble all the information necessary to take a well-considered decision.


21. Effective organisation

Public authorities should ensure that their organisational and administrative systems promote the standard of their services to the public. They should work meticulously and avoid careless mistakes. Any errors that occur should be corrected as quickly as possible.


22. Professionalism

Public authorities should ensure that their employees work in accordance with relevant professional standards. Citizens are entitled to expect government employees to be expert in their particular fields.