Top official puts whistleblower NPO in the cold, MPs want an explanation

MediaJune 2, ’22 3:54 p.m.Updated June 2, ’22 5:09 p.m.AuthorBNR web editors

A senior NPO employee who, as a whistleblower, reported abuses within the Public Broadcasting Service to the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science, was left out in the cold by a top official from the same ministry. It reveals the BNR podcast with Mark Koster and Ton F. van Dijk, who have had conversations with the whistleblower. MEPs Harry van der Molen (CDA) and Zohair El-Yassini (VVD) want an explanation.

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The whistleblower had confidential talks with Marjan Hammersma in the summer of 2020. She is Secretary General of the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science and thus the highest-ranking official in the ministry, which is responsible for allocating the budget to the NPO. The whistleblower would, in his own words, address ‘abuses’ around the pay ceilings for presenters, which were circumvented in a shady way.

At the time of the conversation, Hammersma also had a ‘close relationship’ with Shula Rijxman, then chairman of the NPO. The whistleblower was not aware of the relationship between the two. Spicy detail, Rijxman was sworn in as councilor in Amsterdam on Wednesday night on behalf of D66.

In a statement, the whistleblower told BNR: ‘In July 2020, I had a conversation with Marjan Hammersma in her office. This conversation was organized by MEPs El Yassini and Van der Molen. I was promised absolute confidentiality by them: I would be treated like a whistleblower ‘. To date, there has been no follow-up to the interview.

Shula Rijxman, the former chairman of the board of the NPO.
Shula Rijxman, the former chairman of the board of the NPO. ANP / ANP

Private relationship

In that conversation, the whistleblower, the name is known to the editorial staff, told the top official about the abuses of exorbitant salaries at the public broadcasters. Afterwards, Mrs Hammersma said that she would discuss a few things with Minister Slob and then return to me. To date, I have not heard any more. I now understand that the Secretary-General has a private relationship with the then Chairman of the Board of the NPO, under whose responsibility the abuses I observed may have taken place in part. Had I known about the private relationship, I would never have had the conversation. “

It has been known for some time that Hammersma and Rijxman are good friends. In the past, Follow the Money has revealed that there was a close relationship between the general secretary and the chairman of the board. The podcast by journalists Ton F. van Dijk and Mark Koster shows that this friendship is so close that Hammersma and Rijxman booked a hotel together in Dokkum in August 2021. Hammersma sent a message to Rijxman from her private account after the reservation was made. A copy of the reservation is in the hands of the editors. ‘They’re looking forward to our arrival … and I can not wait until Saturday! xx ‘is Hammersma’s message to Rijxman.

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Follow Money previously asked questions about the relationship. Hammersma replied that the ‘working relationship’ between her and Rijxman had ended in 2016, after she had been appointed Secretary General. Before that, Hammersma was involved in the NPO as director of Media in the ministry. But information from the whistleblower now shows that the NPO was discussed again in 2020 and also the role of her good friend.

No reaction

The question surprises MPs Harry van der Molen and Zohair El-Yassini. They were media rapporteurs for their respective group in 2020 and formed the basis for the conversation between the whistleblower and Hammersma. The whistleblower had reported to MPs, who subsequently informed then-Minister Arie Slob. Slob then referred the person to Hammersma. The general secretary did not say in the conversation that she had a close relationship with the criticized Rijxman.

Marjan Hammersma did not respond to requests for a referral, and said today through a spokesperson that she ‘does not want to comment’.

About Koster and Van Dijk

Koster and Van Dijk is the new media podcast of BNR, a new edition is released online every Thursday. Koster and Van Dijk are presented by Wendy Beenakker. Ton F. van Dijk was director of public broadcasting for over fifteen years before working as an investigative journalist and editor-in-chief. Mark Koster writes for NRC and FTM, among others, and has published books about the De Mol family, the entrepreneurial TV personality Peter Gillis and the relationship broker Pier Ebbinge.

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