On page 97 of the 2019 annual report, it says that Frank Baaijens, who started as rector at TU/e in 2015, received a total remuneration of 207,512 euros. Executive Board president Jan Mengelers received a remuneration of 76,771 euros for the four-and-a-half-month period during which he was still active, according to the same report. This means that remuneration paid to both administrators exceeded the Balkenende standard, the salary cap named after former prime minister Jan Peter Balkenende.
How is it possible that they and several other administrators in the education sector were paid sums in 2019 that exceeded the norm? After all, the Standards for Remuneration Act (WNT) of 2013 – popularly known as the ‘Balkenendenorm’ – states that administrators are not allowed to receive remuneration that exceeds a fixed wage ceiling. The WNT stipulates the maximum salary of top officials in the (semi)public sector. Before the introduction of the WNT, an administrator’s salary was derived from the public servants act combined with the collective labor agreement.
But when the WNT was introduced in 2013, it came with an added provision that previously made agreements will continue to apply to administrators seven years after the introduction of the WNT with a phase-out scheme for a maximum period of four years: the transitional agreement. This is why Baaijens and Mengelers were still allowed to exceed the salary cap two years ago.
The General Union of Education (AOb) announced in late March that a total of 13 education administrators earned more than the wage cap (which at the time was 194,000 euros, the remuneration set for cabinet ministers), and that another 38 administrators earned that exact amount, or slightly less. Executive Board spokesperson Ivo Jongsma says that the transitional agreement no longer applies to rector Baaijens in 2021, “and that this exceedance of the Balkenende standard is a thing of the past.”
Cursor also looked into the Executive Board’s costs and reimbursements in 2019 for representation and travels (page 58 of the annual report). In total, a sum of 88,657 euros in expense claims was submitted that year. A sum of 5,380 euros on representation costs and 10,172 on travel costs was spent per board member (including costs incurred by former Executive Board president Jan Mengelers).
Robert-Jan Smits, who took over from Mengelers in mid-May, spent 17,687 euros on foreign travels in 2019, as well as 8,779 euros on domestic travels and 5,938 euros on representation costs during the remaining seven months after his predecessor’s departure. Mengelers himself claimed a sum of 14,261 euros for domestic travel costs and 2,704 euros for travels abroad.
Baaijens’ domestic and foreign travel costs amounted to 14,943 euros and 4,818 euros respectively, and he spent 6,945 euros on representation activities. Vice-president Nicole Ummelen claimed a total sum of 9,569 euros and did not incur any expenses for traveling abroad. By way of comparison: the total sum of expense claims in 2018 amounted to 113,654 euros. Apart from Mengelers and Baaijens, vice-president Jo van Ham also sat on the Executive Board that year.
Access to receipts
The exact expense claims on which the above costs are based are publicly accessible at TU/e, spokesperson Jongsma says, but only on request, “because of the privacy-sensitive information.” That information would need to be removed, Jongsma says, “a very time-consuming task that leads to much extra work pressure for colleagues.” Several other institutions in higher education, including the University of Amsterdam and Utrecht University, currently offer the opportunity to look into expense claims online.
Inquiries at other universities show that the differences in expense claims are significant. At TU/e Delft, the total sum was more than 95,000 euros in 2019, and the University of Twente tops the list that year with 183,374 euros, followed closely by Erasmus University Rotterdam with 177,263 in expense claims. The UvA is in last place with 35,000 euros, while TU/e is exactly in the middle with 88,657 euros.
When asked what these travel and representation costs entail precisely, Jongsma refers to the Expense Claim Guidelines for Board Members of Dutch Universities. These include buying clothes, personal care, lunches, and adjusting and furnishing homes. Administrators are allowed to spend travel costs on train, car, taxi, bicycle et cetera as they see fit, Jongsma says, “depending on what is most appropriate.”
In this article, the authors use the term remuneration because it covers more than just a salary. It also includes all bonus payments made to an official, such as an executive board president or a cabinet minister.