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Government comprises over 1,600 organisations and bodies, including 11 ministries, 12 provincial authorities and, since 1 January 2014, 403 municipal authorities. It also includes autonomous administrative authorities, such as police regions and chambers of commerce, and public bodies for industry and the professions, such as the Soft Drinks and Water Commodity Board. At the same time, many organisations that we might assume form part of government are in private hands. They include health insurance funds, boards of private schools and benefit agencies such as the UWV.

Within the government sector, we distinguish between bodies that are directly elected and those that are not. Municipal councils, water boards and the House of Representatives are directly elected by the people, whereas mayors, police commissioners and ministers are not. However, all government authorities are ultimately accountable to the public for what they do. There are three tiers of government: central, provincial and municipal. Other authorities are classified mainly on the basis of their tasks.

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