The University and the Netherlands Court of Audit: a cross-fertilisation that benefits everyone
Sjoerd Keulen holds the new special chair in Public Audit, Policy Evaluation and Accountability at the Institute of Public Administration, which is funded by the Netherlands Court of Audit. Keulen: 'All three divisions of the Court of Audit's work are reflected in the chair. This doesn’t exist yet anywhere else in the world.'
The Court of Audit is an independent High Council of State that audits the legality, effectiveness, and efficiency of central government revenue and expenditure. Keulen works there as a strategic advisor. His teaching and research focus on policy research with impact, and he conducts research into the methods available to public institutions to strengthen their accountability. Keulen: 'I alternate between science, policy, and education. I actually enjoy the latter the most. Working with young people and transferring knowledge. That’s what appeals to me most.'
Wish comes true
A historian by birth, Keulen has been working at various financial organisations in The Hague or years and is also a lecturer at the FHR Institute in Paramaribo. He has been working at the Netherlands Court of Audit for four years now. 'Independence is really part of the DNA and you can see reflected throughout the organisation. There's a great desire to know things, to get to the bottom of things. Which I have too.'
The chair at the Institute of Public Administration is a long-cherished wish within Keulen's organisation. 'It deals with the cutting edge of the Public Audit side; that is, the Court of Audit proceedings used to audit what public money has been spent on. There’s also a policy evaluation side, because we also investigate and deduce how this money was spent. Scientific evaluations help us to understand how reports and studies are used by MPs, ministers, and civil servants. And it's about accountability because that's what we’re all about. So, all three divisions of the Court of Audit's work are reflected in the chair. Which doesn`t exist yet anywhere else in the world and it’s precisely because of that connection that we hope to be able to strengthen each other.' For Keulen personally, the appointment is 'a dream come true'. 'I’m proud of this appointment. I believe the university is a very valuable institution.'
'In my view, public administration here is less abstract than at other faculties. More focussed on the translation into practice and I like that. Besides, you already work together with numerous organisations in The Hague and we like to be part of that.'
More cooperation with academia
According to Keulen, the choice of Leiden University and the Institute of Public Administration in The Hague is a logical one. 'In my view, public administration here is less abstract than at other faculties. More focussed on the translation into practice and I like that. Besides, you already work together with numerous organisations in The Hague and we like to be part of that.'
The Court of Audit would like to collaborate more often with academia. 'We believe that if you master modern research techniques, this will help to improve your own research. The world around us is changing, and you simply have to adapt to fit in that world. We also hope to increase our visibility through this cooperation. And increase students' knowledge of our organisation.'
For Leiden University, cooperation with an organisation such as the Court of Audit is also important. As is emphasised by Erwin Muller, Dean of the Faculty of Governance and Global Affairs which includes Public Administration. 'We believe it’s important to connect with organisations that are of social importance in the city of The Hague. The Court of Audit is a crucial body for controlling and monitoring power in our country. Which is why I believe this collaboration in the form of this chair is cross-pollination from which both parties can benefit.'
Text: Margriet van der Zee