“Job chess,” a derogatory Austrian term for a specific type of government corruption where officials give jobs to each other without public announcements seeking outside candidates for the post. Said recently after the Chancellor’s chief of staff Ronald Pofalla—in charge of Germany’s intelligence agencies and famous for telling reporters last summer that N.S.A.-type suspicionless surveillance and warrantless wiretapping were “off the table,” done with, handled, fixed, over—announced he was quitting government to spend more time with his family. Perhaps a week later rumors flew that he would be taking a well-paid newly-created post on Deutsche Bahn’s management board [Vorstand] responsible for lobbying and long-term company development despite very little identifiable railroad management experience or long-term company development experience in the private sector.
The good news is that several notable groups have proposed fixes. To prevent conflicts of interest, Transparency International Deutschland said, it has asked for a waiting period of three years between leaving German government and becoming a lobbyist, and the Greens agreed with that. Jurist Hans Herbert von Arnim thought it should be five years, and the Leftists agreed with that. ARD tagesschau.de noted that Germany already has laws requiring nonelected bureaucrats to wait five years before they can take a job in the private sector. The E.U., said Süddeutsche.de, has rules mandating an 18-month waiting period before European commissioners can take private sector jobs, with questionable cases to be adjudicated by an ethics council, though that system remains a work in progress.
Even the new grosse Koalition apparently wants to introduce a waiting period too, because they wrote it into the new coalition agreement.
Though long, the new coalition agreement is an incomplete document, because the three political parties were unable to reach agreements on every issue under discussion, because they never worked out how to pay for the agreements they did reach, and because the C.S.U. has already started challenging those. Nevertheless, here is a translation of the relevant revolving-door passage according to ZDF heute journal:
“To avoid the appearance of conflicts of interest, we will strive for an appropriate regulation that will apply to outgoing cabinet members, parliamentary state secretaries and political officials.”
German news showed a clip of Mr. Pofalla in 2005 criticizing the decision of ex-Chancellor Gerhard Schröder (S.P.D.) to accept a seat on the board of a German-Russian gas pipeline. ZDF heute journal’s Marietta Slomka said Mr. Pofalla said then that he could imagine a type of “self-obligation” for members of government to voluntarily impose “business thoughtfulness” on themselves for the time immediately after they left office.
In early January, the Deutsche Bahn’s supervisory board [Aufsichtsrat] was expected to decide the Pofalla case in late January 2014. A member of that board told Spiegel.de they were actually planning to reduce the size of the management board rather than add more members.
Update on Monday, 03 Feb 2014: The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung reported that, as part of the E.U.’s first anti-corruption report, which was published today, the European Commission asked Germany to define more specific revolving-door rules.
The report also criticized insufficient German regulations preventing smaller and medium-sized German companies from paying bribes outside of Germany. Which sounds like a type of progress. German election campaign financing is inadequately regulated to prevent companies from exerting influence, the authors said, and the limits defined for lifting German politicians’ immunity from prosecution are too strict.
On the whole, the report gave Germany a somewhat decent grade in the fight against corruption. Great gains can be quickly undone by a few key decisions, however: and despite the “to avoid the appearance of conflicts of interest” paragraph in the new coalition agreement, the F.A.Z. wrote, it had begun to appear inter alia that Germany’s new huge grosse Koalition was no longer going to pass legislation regulating the revolving door but was instead going to leave it up to the new cabinet to make some rules limiting itself.
The E.U. said in two years it will check how well member states have implemented this report’s “homework assignments.”
(POSSED en PSHAW chh ah WRY.)