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A view of the overpass in North-Rhine Westphalia , Source: Bund der Steuerzahler website

Black Book showcases millions of wasted taxpayer euros in Germany

Black Book showcases millions of wasted taxpayer euros in Germany

The German Taxpayers’ Foundation published their annual report on taxpayer money wasted on bizarre, inefficient projects

Today, the Bund der Steuerzahler (Taxpayers’ Federation) in Germany published their annual report on public projects that waste taxpayer money, also known as ‘Schwarzbuch’ (the Black Book). This is the 49th edition and it takes into account hundreds of federal, state and municipal projects, assessing expenses and waste into bizarre, unfinished and poorly thought out decision-making.

The main principle behind the Black Book, according to the President of the Taxpayers’ Federation, Reiner Holznagel, is that the government needs to operate with an even higher degree of caution when it comes to spending, as they are not spending their own money. Thus, the publication hopes to shine a light on some inefficient practices and projects, as well as offer some solid course-correction recommendations.

A bridge that leads to nowhere

Here are some examples of money-wasting operations in Germany: A breaking-ground ceremony in Schleswig-Holstein, which was celebrated twice - 5,000 euros wasted. Another is the case with the test routes with marked bicycle protection strips in Lower Saxony, which were removed despite positive reception and successful tests - 763,000 euros for the dismantling alone.

In Stuttgart, for example, several staircases were painted in bright colours: one of them is decorated with a huge pretzel heart. Why? According to the Black Book Authors - because the city hopes that its citizens will use the ornate steps frequently and thus do something for their health. The city is spending 75,000 euros on this hope.

There is also the case of an overpass in North Rhine-Westphalia, built between 1976 and 1977. It was supposed to be part of Autobahn 56, but the federal government ultimately decided it did not need said autobahn. The overpass is still there though. And every year, road services check their operational viability and roadworthiness.

Digitalisation

This year’s edition of the Black Book has a special section devoted to digitalisation, as the Taxpayers’ Foundation see Germany’s slow adoption of digital services as a heavy burden on citizens, wasting both time and money.

According to them, instead of creating a Ministry of Digitalisation, existing ministries should operate their own efforts coordinated through a central digital agency. At the same time, municipal, federal and state digital infrastructure should be disentangled, as offering everything in the same platform could prove sluggish to use. This bureaucratic sluggishness is currently the source of wasted money and time when citizens deal with the state.

Furthermore, the authors propose that policy should be amended so that all projects can be checked by a group of experts to determine their digital viability. They point out that ease of use should be at the forefront of all digitalisation efforts, though.

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