Last week, the Higher Education Press Agency (HOP), Investico and NOSop3 reported that the detection of fraud with the basic student grant is flawed and that students with a migration background in particular are being targeted.
The House of Representatives is alarmed. Last Tuesday, it overwhelmingly passed a DENK and D66 motion to urgently move for an independent, external investigation into DUO’s enforcement practices.
Some students live with their parents, but are registered somewhere else. This makes it look like they are living away from home, which means they receive around two thousand euros worth of extra basic student grant money they are not entitled to. DUO uses home visits and neighbourhood surveys (chats with the neighbours) to check if students are really ‘living away from home’.
DUO fraud investigators mostly catch students with migration background. ‘That neighbourhood investigation was bullshit’
In de strijd tegen misbruik van de basisbeurs bellen controleurs bij studenten aan. Die…
DUO works with risk profiles and human assessments to detect abuse of the basic student grant. The House would like the investigation to focus on the algorithm (who emerge as suspects?) and the personal assessment by enforcement officers (who end up being 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 the detection and, if so, what damage has been done.
Burden of proof
A GroenLinks motion took it a step further, but narrowly fell short of being accepted. This motion was on the ‘reversal’ of the burden of proof. Currently, students sometimes get into trouble because all DUO has to do is make it ‘plausible’ that they are committing fraud, whereas students have to refute the suspicions with hard evidence. Shouldn’t it be the other way around, GroenLinks wondered. Why shouldn’t DUO be the one supplying the evidence?
To be exact, the motion suggested the external investigation into DUO’s methods 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, Minister of Education 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 these will be less effective, “but given the circumstances, I think it is the most sensible thing we can do.”
He thought the GroenLinks motion on the burden of proof took things a bit too far. He first wants to investigate matters before implementing such changes. His own party, D66, did support the motion.