Postenschacherei

“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.)

Detekteien

Private detective agencies. A Spiegel.de article dated 2008 said this was an unregulated and unsupervised but burgeoning security industry in Germany, sometimes employing former Stasi cooperators. The authors estimated there were ~1500 private detective companies in Germany in 2008 and about a dozen key world players, including the New York-based Kroll and London-based Control Risks. Many of these companies earned game-changing amounts of money in Iraq after the second U.S. invasion. They could be hired via law firms protected by attorney-client privilege, and subcontract jobs to other firms, obscuring cause-and-effect. A new C.E.O. of Control Risks said they were also hiring journalists to spy on other journalists.

A Detektei called Network Deutschland was “involved” in the German rail company Deutsche Bahn’s data privacy scandal when it was caught spying on its employees in 2009, leading to the retirement of C.E.O. Hartmut Mehdorn. Network Deutschland was also involved in the former-monopoly phone company Deutsche Telekom’s so-called “Telekom data scandal,” which is confusing but included T-mobile’s years of archiving communications data of members of its own supervisory boards, such as the head of the German trade union association Deutsche Gewerkschaftsbund. T-mobile was especially interested in any phone interactions with journalists. Deutsche Telekom was also accused of using private detectives to spy on journalists in other ways.

The 2013 Snowden revelations might provide some insight into the means private detective companies could have used to access these communications and banking data. Online ads and tech articles seem to be indicating that powerful N.S.A.-type tools are now trickling down into the regular economy, being sold to smaller and smaller entities.

N.B.: How early did the notoriously technophilic and well-funded U.S. National Football League know about some of these capabilities?

An English-language Spiegel.de article dated 2008 speculated about the separate huge data hoards controlled by the national rail (Deutsche Bahn), national airline (Lufthansa), post office (Deutsche Post) and phone company (Deutsche Telekom), all companies found to have made questionable investigations and hired detective agencies. The magazine couldn’t show that they had combined their data in 2008 though; they also only connected up e.g. that Deutsche Bahn and Deutsche Telekom hired the same detective agency but Lufthansa and (Telekom?) investigated the same journalist (Tasso Enzweiler from Financial Times Deutschland, which folded in 2012). The Spiegel article wanted to but could not show that the four big corporations also investigated each other, but it reminded us they were well positioned to investigate each other and anyone else in Germany. The Spiegel.de article didn’t want to feed conspiracy theorists but hoped the German government wasn’t asking these companies for access to their sensitive customer data. All four used to be state-owned and the German government still held large stakes in Deutsche Bahn and Deutsche Telekom.

(Day tect EYE en.)

Wettbewerbsvorteile

Competition advantages.

The E.U. Commission said they are going to file complaints with the European Court of Justice against Deutsche Bahn, the German rail system, and Deutsche Post, the German post office, for competition violations.

Deutsche Bahn is accused of an unclear accounting system without “eindeutig geregelt,” unambiguously regulated, procedures for keeping separate money for the rails network and and for traffic [“Schienennetz und Verkehr“]; E.U. law requires separation between the ownership and operation of rails networks. The Commission said money paid by D.B.’s competitors to use its rail networks might have been “alienated from its purpose” for improper “cross-subventions.” Also, taxpayers’ money which the government must contribute to the maintenance of the rails network infrastructure might have been diverted into Deutsche Bahn’s passenger and freight traffic. Such redirection might have enabled the company to establish unfair advantages over its competitors, thus the complaint from the E.U. competition authority, though the E.U. transportation commissioner Siim Kallas (libertarianesque Estonian Reform Party) who approved the C.S.U.’s car toll on foreigners entering Bavaria also said he wants new legislation to create more competition between European railroad companies. Generally, the German government is accused of not having adequately blocked D.B. from such repurposing and unclear accounting, and if the court agrees it appears Germany may be fined.

At issue for the Post is old government aid payments for which, the E.U. said, the German government did not adequately require reimbursement. The Deutsche Post paid back ~300 million euros plus interest of the 500 million to 1000 million euros the E.U. accused it in 2012 of receiving improperly in the form of high regulated postage prices and “Zuschüsse” [grants, subsidies, subventions, extra payments, benefits] to bureaucrats’ pension plans. Calculating how much the Post had improperly received was left to German authorities.

Süddeutsche.de reported the E.U. had allowed the Post’s unusual subventions in 2012 in principle but felt they were too high. There was also disagreement about how many divisions of the Post were involved: Germany argued only Postal Services should have to pay back the subventions, while the E.U. said Postal Services and Business Customers.

(VET bev airbz FOR tie leh.)

Sündenbock

“Sins goat,” i.e. scapegoat.

08 Mar 2013: In what may be an unusual choice for a sacrificial pawn, peasant or farmer, the controversial German executive Hartmut Mehdorn was named the new manager of the struggling Berlin-Brandenburg airport construction project. At his last gig, he was C.E.O. of Germany’s second-largest airline after Lufthansa but left suddenly, though not before suing the Berlin-Brandenburg airport construction project. In his gig before that he managed Deutsche Bahn for years and years (he finally had to leave that company in 2009 after they were found to be spying on their employees). Mr. Mehdorn is considered undiplomatic by people who don’t like him and a cost cutter by those who do. He doesn’t always manage to cut costs: as Green party members like to point out, another thing Mr. Mehdorn did at Deutsche Bahn was spend a decade pushing the unpopular and also possibly impossibly expensive Stuttgart 21 underground train station expansion project.

Former Frankfurt airport C.E.O. and engineer Wilhelm Bender was supposed to take over the beleaguered Berlin airport construction project and was rumored to have negotiated a per diem of 2500 or 4000 euros, but withdrew his name on 4 Mar 2013, citing contractual disagreements and his concerns about confidentiality.

Update on 21 Oct 2013: Still not finished, the new Berlin airport’s construction costs have been adjusted upward again, now estimated at about 5 billion euros (which would actually be a downward adjustment). No deadline for finishing is apparent. Siemens recently signed a contract to deliver a control system for the new smoke removal system that included 18 months just for programming the software.

Update on 24 Oct 2013: Spiegel.de provided some context on the mutual history of Hartmut Mehdorn and Berlin mayor Klaus Wowereit (S.P.D.). Years after his 2009 departure from German Rail, Spiegel wrote, Berliners still suffered from Mr. Mehdorn’s misplaced I.P.O.-preparedness austerity measures as their poorly maintained trains, tracks and other rail equipment struggle to keep running in winter weather. In 2005, Mr. Wowereit apparently forced Mr. Mehdorn to build Deutsche Bahn headquarters in the capital city instead of in Hamburg where Mr. Mehdorn would have had more control, e.g. over port shipping.

The current airport construction site’s technology manager, engineer Horst Amann, who after fighting with Mr. Mehdorn since March 2013 was transferred to head the airport’s utilities subsidiary on 01 Nov 2013, criticized Mr. Mehdorn’s plan to open the new airport in stages, starting with perhaps 10 flights a day to perhaps test things. Mr. Amann said this is purely cosmetic and would interfere with construction.

Update on 20 Feb 2014: Hartmut Mehdorn announced in a letter to employees that the planned partial start of the new Berlin airport this summer will not be feasible.

Update on 28 Feb 2014: There still aren’t PLANS for the airport. One reason this became such a colossal sinkhole is because they started building before they finished designing all the systems. Siemens said it could go ahead and start construction of replacement system/s (not sure which) if only plans were available. Hartmut Mehdorn has already had a falling-out with the new technical manager who replaced Horst Amann; she quit. Pirate Party member Martin Delius said management board chief Hartmut Mehdorn needs a technical manager he can work with, who is allowed some autonomy and who is supported by the supervisory board.

Update on 04 Mar 2014: An analysis of Hartmut Mehdorn’s first year turning the Berlin airport construction project around said, “Other people are always responsible” for the problems that occur on Mr. Mehdorn’s watch.

Update on 11 Apr 2014: The Berlin airport construction project’s supervisory board [Aufsichtsrat] met today. Hartmut Mehdorn appeared accompanied by a lawyer, who was he said there to instruct the supervisory board about the responsibilities and rights of a board such as itself. “Mehdorn feels he has been pushed around. The supervisory board felt it has been inadequately informed.” ZDF heute journal’s report on the meeting went on to mention that a top airport employee, a construction specialist, sent a 21-page letter to the supervisory board to alert them that, in his opinion,

English translation German original
“[cut off] …in the context of the stagnating progress in the BER project the mood is worsening, including within the FBB company, and would draw your attention to ongoing still-existing and even increasing deficits in company culture, characterized by resistance to advice, increasing hierarchization, resignation and criticismlessness. In internal atmospheres as well, the decision-making process appears at times to be based on gut feelings and mercurial, even for strategic questions. Bad decisions in this atmosphere are not revised but are pushed through ‘decisively’ as evidence of leadership strength. The actions taken awaken the impression that at the moment it’s being determined by operative actionism/’immediatism’ without appropriate internal coordination and expertise, as well as by uncoordinated assignment of internal tasks. This situation continues to be [cut off] by a lack of personnel consequences…” “[cut off] im Kontext des stagnierenden BER-Projektfortschritts auch innerhalb der FBB die Stimmungslage weiter verschlechtert und verweist auf weiter bestehende und sogar zunehmende Defizite in der Unternehmenskultur, gekennzeichnet durch Beratungsresistenz, verstärkte Hierarchisierung, Resignation und Kritiklosigkeit. Auch in der Innenwahrnehmung erscheint die Entscheidungsfindung zuweilen auf Bauchgefühl beruhend und sprunghaft, selbst bei strategischen Fragen, Fehlentscheidungen werden nach dieser Wahrnehmung nicht revidiert sondern als Beleg von Führungsstärke ‘entschieden’ durchgesetzt. Das Handeln erweckt den Eindruck, dass es augenscheinlich durch operativem Aktionismus / ‘Sofortismus’ ohne angemessene interne Abstimmung und Sachkunde sowie die unkoordinierte parallele Erteilung interner Aufträge bestimmt ist. Diese Situation wird durch die weiterhin fehlenden personellen Konsequenzen für die [cut off]”

Mr. Mehdorn responded to the letter by firing its author, effective immediately.

Time: Hartmut Mehdorn estimated they might have an estimate of when construction will be complete at the end of 2014 at the earliest.
Money: Hartmut Mehdorn estimated the project will need another 1.1 billion euros, for a total of 5.4 billion euros.

(ZINNED en bawk.)

Schienenkartell

“Rails cartel.” Troubled steel giant Thyssen-Krupp and three other firms are defendants in a lawsuit by the Deutsche Bahn for railroad construction price-setting collusion said to have lasted almost a decade. Deutsche Bahn (German Rail) is seeking 550 million euros after, it said, trying for several months to reach an out-of-court settlement. Its lawsuit is said to have good chances, in particular because somehow the suit suspends the statute of limitations for the offenses, for which these companies were fined ˜100 million euros last summer by the German Federal Cartel Authority (Bundeskartellamt), which criticized the Deutsche Bahn’s lax procedures. Tagesschau.de reports that the Deutsche Bahn has often been the victim of rail cartels. The F.A.Z. called them “nearly a historical normality.” In 2012 Thyssen-Krupp announced losses of 5 billion euros after failures of e.g. investments in steel processing plants in the USA and Brazil; it fired half its board in consequence.

Update on 23 Jul 2013: The Bundeskartellamt announced it has issued a second set of fines in this matter totalling ˜97 million euros to eight companies, moving its fines total for this rail cartel to ~230 million euros. This second set of fines was for overcharging construction firms and local, regional, private and industry train organizations. F.A.Z. reported the fine money will go to the federal government. Almost all the companies are cooperating, according to the cartel authority. The investigation was started by a request to turn state’s evidence from the Austrian Voestalpine company, which also said recently that it is the only one of these companies to have reached a negotiated settlement with the Deutsche Bahn so far. This second set of BKA fines is not yet final; they may still be appealed.

The Bundeskartellamt’s press release said in the cartel the company scheduled to win each order was given a “leadership” role that included telling the others how much to ask for in their so-called “safety bids” [“Schutzangebote“] tendered to camouflage the collusion.

(SHEE nen cartel.)

Das bürgerliche Lager

The “burghers camp,” the “middle class position,” was being invoked in Stuttgart’s recent politics much as the “center” is in the USA. After Stuttgart’s mayoral election on 21 Oct 2012, the Green candidate had 52.9% of the vote and the “nonparty” (CDU, Merkel-supported) candidate 45.3%. The Green party is now in charge of Stuttgart for the first time, with an absolute majority (!), after 40 years of CDU mayors in various coalitions. Part of the voters’ general anger was in response to last year’s “Stuttgart 21” controversy in which the CDU insisted on going through with expansion of the main train station at the cost of parts of its historic building, trees in the castle park, public access to the castle park for ten years of construction, public land sold for development and cost overruns exceeding the originally promised price of EUR 200 million to the current estimate of EUR 4 billion and possibly even EUR 18 billion because a 2003 report found the area too unstable for an underground train station. I also wonder about the archeological losses incurred by digging next to a castle site that’s over a thousand years old.

New Oberbürgermeister Fritz Kuhn (Green Party) said, “This assumption that the burghers camp is the CDU and FDP is ~[as dead wrong as it’s possible to be wrong in a very wrong way]. We too are in the burghers camp, but with a progressed understanding of the middle classes. And today’s success is actually the success of a long-term strategy that’s been ongoing for years.”

Update on 12 Dec 2012: Stuttgart 21 is now estimated to cost 6.8 billion euros (but only if it  finishes in 2021 as planned, &c.). The head of Deutsche Bahn, the German Rail operator, has now alleged that canceling the project will cost 2 billion euros. But, says Spiegel-Online, he has also said for some time that Stuttgart 21 would only be worth carrying out if its costs did not exceed 4.7 billion euros.

Update on 21 Nov 2013: An expert opinion report found that ex-governor of Baden-Württemberg Stefan Mappus (C.D.U.) overpaid by ~780 million euros when he bought into private energy utility company EnBW in 2010, negotiating a shares purchase package for 4.7 billion euros. The report was commissioned by the Stuttgart prosecutors’ office.

Update on 07 Mar 2014: Stuttgart prosecutors are now investigating ex-governor Stefan Mappus for his role in the police beatdown of the Stuttgart 21 protests. They are examining whether Mr. Mappus lied, while not under oath, when he told the state parliament’s investigating committee that he’d never exerted any influence on the government’s counterprotest measures, that he merely gave police moral support during visits and meetings. Top police officials and their documents have now indicated that the governor made “rigid instructions” during the protests, including telling police to use water cannons. ~130 demonstrators and ~30 police officers were injured during the events that ensued on 30 Sep 2010. Mr. Mappus’s hands-off claim was supported by the head of police at the time, Siegfried Stumpf, who said he alone bore responsibility for the decisions and their consequences. Now other top officials have said Mr. Mappus told police, “Bring the bulldozers in. If you won’t do it, I’ll get police from another state.” Mr. Mappus denies this and has filed a lawsuit for defamation [üble Nachrede].

Update on 05 Aug 2014: The castle park is gone. Digging started on the huge Stuttgart 21 underground train station even though experts say a canal running through the site will cause problems. Deutsche Bahn will have to pump out groundwater but only has a partial permit to do so. Also, Deutsche Bahn still doesn’t have an approved fire protection concept. The latter issue ended up costing the Berlin-Brandenburg airport years and billions of euros, with still no solution in sight.

ZDF heute journal reported that a new fire safety concept had to be developed for the underground train station after requirements were set higher in 2010 and after a stress test showed more passengers would be using the facility than the planners had calculated. Now what looks like fire escape stairs will be built, three on each platform. One problem there is that there will be only 2.05 meters of space on either side of these sets of stairs, bottlenecking masses of rail passengers. The founder of a “Wikireal” fact-checking portal told ZDF that Deutsche Bahn has said two meters isn’t enough space even in small train stations. Deutsche Bahn’s Stuttgart 21 spokesman said there were no bottlenecks in the planned train station.

The new fire safety concept was supposed to be approved in June 2014 but the authorities had questions, said Deutsche Bahn’s Stuttgart 21 spokesperson.

(Doss   BERR gur lichh eh   LOG er.)

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