For the fiftieth time, the Taxpayers' Association has published its Black Book, in which year after year it denounces particularly absurd spending by the federal, state and local governments. The self-appointed advocates of taxpaying citizens are not running out of cases.
Especially in the crisis, it is important to have solid budgets in order to be able to act and to be able to relieve citizens and companies in a targeted manner. "That's why the black book remains a driving force in the public debate about the economical and economical use of taxpayers' money," says association president Reiner Holznagel. Instead of finally setting priorities, politicians are throwing themselves into ever-increasing debt, especially during the crisis.
For the 50th edition, the Taxpayers' Association again compiled 100 examples of public waste. WELT presents five very different cases, as described in the Black Book 2022/2023.
When building a roundabout in Egelsbach in southern Hesse, the initiators actually had good intentions: they wanted to use a roundabout to make an intersection safer for cyclists. The new building cost 125,000 euros, 80 percent of which was borne by the state of Hesse and 20 percent by the municipality of Egelsbach. The construction was carried out by the Regionalpark RheinMain SüdWest GmbH.
When the building was finished, an embarrassing mistake was discovered: Instead of the diameter of 22 meters calculated by the municipality of Egelsbach, only 17 meters were built. As a result, buses could hardly get through. A diameter of 24 meters would have been necessary for them, as it turned out after later consultation with the bus operator.
At the request of the taxpayers' association, Egelsbach passed the buck to the regional park RheinMain SüdWest responsible for the construction: The municipality had passed on the planning objective regarding the regular bus service to the planning office commissioned by the regional park, but the latter had "simply not observed" the specifications. The conversion costs are estimated at 75,000 euros.
"Egelsbach and the regional park have made themselves look ridiculous nationwide with the too small roundabout," is the conclusion of the taxpayers' association. Communication and personnel problems should not lead to a building project being implemented incorrectly and taxpayers having to pay for these errors.
A gasometer in Lübeck, built in 1954, was taken out of service in 2015 and was to be demolished by the municipal works. When the approval was available, the responsible monument protection authority issued an urgent decree that declared the building a cultural monument with outstanding value for the history of technology of industrialization.
For the Stadtwerke as the owner, this was associated with high costs: Because experts saw the danger that rivets could come loose from the construction, the entire gasometer had to be rebuilt at a cost of around one million euros. The annual maintenance costs amounted to 100,000 euros.
After all plans to use the building for cultural events had failed, the preservationists gave in and then allowed the dismantling in 2021, which was completed at the end of last year.
"If the monument conservators had completed their inspection on time, the Lübeck public utility company and thus the fee payers would have been saved 1.6 million euros in costs," says the black book. With the money, the city would have been better off buying three state-of-the-art electric buses for city traffic.
The state government in Baden-Württemberg had a special reward for everyone who cycled to work on five days in the spring: cyclists could pick up a free “PendlerBrezel” from one of the around 650 participating bakery branches. With this campaign, the Ministry of Transport wanted to motivate all those who use the bicycle instead of the car in commuter traffic.
The cyclists didn't have to pay anything for the pretzels, but the campaign wasn't free: According to the response from the Ministry of Transport to a small inquiry from a member of the state parliament, it cost 58,882.50 euros.
"The 'PendlerBrezel' campaign was an unnecessary PR campaign at the expense of taxpayers," criticize the authors. Most commuters would switch to their bikes of their own accord, to do something for their fitness or health or to react to the rise in petrol prices. There is no need for such actions.
The HR department of the city of Hamburg spent around 1.2 million euros on a vaccination center for booster vaccinations for the city's 100,000 employees. But they did not accept the offer. Between December 13, 2021 and January 21, 2022, only 8,300 employees were vaccinated. The vaccination center was closed again after six weeks.
According to the black book, the vaccination center cost the city 1.2 million euros: 300,000 euros were spent on medical staff, 900,000 euros went to external service providers - for planning, security personnel, protection and hygiene concepts, fire protection and evacuation concepts, on-site organization and warehouse management as well as for cleaning and IT infrastructure.
“The competent authority should have determined the need beforehand. The measure is also particularly questionable because there was already an oversupply of vaccination options when the temporary vaccination center opened - there was an opportunity for vaccination and a booster vaccination on almost every corner," summarizes the taxpayers' association.
Germany in the summer of 2022: The Federal Minister for Economic Affairs and Climate is calling on Germans to save energy and, in a campaign worth millions, is providing a number of savings tips: "Don't shower for so long!" is one of them.
Nevertheless, an elaborate light show on the history of parliamentarianism runs every evening on the facade of a Bundestag building in Berlin. The spectators, who were able to marvel at the spectacle from the outside staircase in front of the Reichstag building, were fed with sound via huge loudspeakers.
Total costs: 1.16 million euros (net), as announced by the German Bundestag. This brought the cost of the show to around 12,500 euros per day.
In view of the federal government's record debt and energy-saving appeals by politicians, such a show at the expense of taxpayers seems out of date, according to the black book.
The authors estimate that for one million euros, the Bundestag's information vehicle could have made around 100 tour stops in Germany and provided information on the spot about the work of the German Bundestag.