Despite more than 20,000 employees in the federal ministries, the government spent 186 million euros on external consultants in the first half of the year. Left-wing Member of Parliament Höhn considers the figures to be “implausible” and suspects much higher sums.
The federal government spent at least 186.1 million euros on external consultants in the first half of the year. The front-runners in terms of investments in expertise from outside are the Ministry of the Interior with 79.8 million euros and the Ministry of Finance with 48.2 million euros. These are followed by the Ministry of Health with 16.3 million and the Ministry of Transport with 16.0 million. In contrast, the Ministry of Defense is the only ministry to state that it did not spend any money on consultants from January to June. The figures are taken from a response by the Ministry of Finance to an inquiry by left-wing MP Matthias Höhn, which is available to the German Press Agency.
The commitment of management consultants and other external experts by the German government is highly controversial. Critics argue that the purchase of expertise is too expensive and, in view of the more than 20,000 employees in the ministries, not absolutely necessary. In addition, there are fears of too much influence on government work. Proponents, on the other hand, expect added value in very different areas by looking in from the outside or using experts for special tasks for which no permanent staff are needed.
It is not possible to compare the new figures with the same period of the previous year, because different criteria were applied in 2019. This also explains why the Ministry of Defense was at the top of the statistics in the first half of 2019 with expenditures of EUR 154.9 million for “consulting and support services” and was the only ministry this year to report EUR 0 for the first six months. A ministry spokeswoman explained that this time, according to a definition by the budget committee, only “external consulting services” – i.e. no more support services – were reported.
“The true consulting costs under lock and key”.
The left-wing Member of Parliament Matthias Höhn called the statements of the Ministry of Defense “unbelievable”. “The German government is trying to mislead the public by keeping the true costs of consulting under wraps,” he said. He also criticized that the expenditure for external expertise was far too high, especially in times of the Corona pandemic. “For the federal government, external consultants remain systemically relevant. But while nurses and cashiers only receive applause, the government has continued to reward external consultants with princely sums despite the lockdown and economic crisis”.
In January, a survey conducted by the Ministry of Finance among the ministries had revealed expenditures for consulting and support services of at least 548.5 million euros in 2019. However, not all ministries reported the figures for the whole year. Only the Ministry of Education did not provide any information for the 2020 half-yearly statistics.
A parliamentary committee of inquiry has already dealt with the deployment of consultants in the Ministry of Defense under the leadership of the current EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. The allegations ranged from incorrect contract awarding to nepotism. In their evaluation of the committee’s work, the FDP, Greens and Left Party came to the conclusion that misconduct in the ministry had caused financial losses in the higher double-digit million range.