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Court of Auditors reprimands Senate and administration

The list of points of criticism from the Court of Auditors in the Hamburg Senate and the administration of the Hanseatic city is long.

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Court of Auditors reprimands Senate and administration

The list of points of criticism from the Court of Auditors in the Hamburg Senate and the administration of the Hanseatic city is long. It's about deficient file management, software solutions that don't do the accounting correctly, incomplete or incorrect balance sheets, incorrectly booked leftover budgets and a mountain of 1.7 billion euros that was earmarked for investments but was not spent.

The complaints and comments in the Annual Report of the Court of Auditors add up to a total of 246 pages. On the one hand, it is the final audit of the budget for 2021, as it would be prepared by the auditor at a company. Here, the city only received a limited audit opinion, as it has for years. The defects that have occurred are too significant. And on the other hand, the report should help the members of the citizenship to better monitor how the administration implements the expenditure approved by parliament.

In particular, file management - a focus of the audit this year - urgently needs to be improved, said Court of Auditors President Stefan Schulz on Monday. In the social authorities, for example, only 42 percent of the files checked were free of defects. “We see that the old errors of the paper file are perpetuated with the introduction of the electronic file. And that's not how it should be."

The Senate must also "step up a gear" when it comes to correcting incorrect system bookings. Here, buildings that have been completed for years - for example bridges and roads - are still listed as being under construction, which means that their wear and tear is not recorded and the values ​​are therefore incorrect in the balance sheet.

In addition, the examination showed that the monitoring of industrial plants in Hamburg was insufficient. The security measures planned by the Federal Office for Information Security were also not fully implemented in any of the six Hamburg universities examined.

In its report, the Court of Auditors not only makes very fundamental comments but also addresses particularly striking individual cases. In the current annual report, this includes, among other things, the upgrading of "Cranzer and Neuenfelder Hauptdeich". This was commissioned by the environmental authority, but was overseen in day-to-day business by the State Office for Roads, Bridges and Water. This in turn awarded the project to the port authority HPA, which commissioned the urban planning company Rege, which then used private construction companies.

At the end of the order chain, only EUR 2.4 million of the estimated EUR 6.2 million had been spent on planning services by external companies. HPA and Rege had each pocketed money for their own planning services. The state company even had 1.8 million euros left for which there was no consideration at all. The money flowed back to the city - not to the environmental authority, but to the transport authority, to which the State Office for Roads, Bridges and Water formally belongs. Director of the Court of Auditors Birgit Fuhlendorf, whose team uncovered the case, described the procedure as "unacceptable".

Another concrete case is the allocation of land for the large urban development project in Oberbillwerder. For example, the auditors complain that the city development authority did not carry out an appropriate economic feasibility study during the project development. In addition, the plots were sold well below value because the market values ​​were determined before there were any concrete plans for the area. The plots of land became more valuable due to the later planned development, but were nevertheless sold at the old price.

The shortcomings pointed out are "unacceptable", criticized the budget spokesman for the opposition CDU parliamentary group. The Senate must act quickly and rectify the grievances. Controlling and transparency urgently need to be improved in order to limit risks for taxpayers.

According to Kleibauer, the large budget leftovers for investments also remain problematic. At the end of 2021, they added up to 1.7 billion euros - as much as was estimated for the whole year. “This shows that many projects that have long been approved by the Senate are not being implemented as planned. The red-green coalition must finally do its homework here," said Kleibauer.

The annual report "again does not paint a good picture of the city of Hamburg's accounting department," said Petra Ackmann, Chairwoman of the Hamburg Taxpayers' Association. The fact that the Court of Auditors also criticizes the management of files across all authorities does not speak for a Senate that is pushing ahead with digitization with the necessary seriousness.

"The fact that the Court of Auditors criticizes that profitability audits or performance reviews are not taking place within the necessary framework is grist to our taxpayer's mill," says Ackmann. It shows "that politicians - at least in parts - still have not understood that this is tax money that the citizens of the city have to work hard for." You ask yourself whether the Senate is willing or even lack the competence to “heal the points that have been criticized for many years.”

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