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2018 report – Lifetime allowance given to former federal presidents, federal chancellors and presidents of Federal Parliament - Part I: Former federal presidents

Sep 18, 2018

0 Executive Summary
We audited the lifetime allowance received by former federal presidents (ret.) from federal budget resources and developed the following findings:

The legislator has neither conferred functions nor powers to former federal presidents. Provisions on the legal relationships of a former federal president are stipulated in the Former Federal Presidents’ Honorary Salary Act. After the end of the term of office, the special personal status of a federal president ceases to exist. Still, the Federal President’s Office considers a retired federal president to be entitled to an “allowance reflecting his/her status in public life”.  

When the legislator originally increased the honorary salary of former federal presidents to the double amount in 1959 to reach an amount equal of that received by an active federal president, the purpose was to enable the presidents to cover the staff and secretarial costs needed to fulfill continuing public duties. The express legislative intent was not to institutionalise the former federal presidential status. The purpose justifying an increase in honorary salaries was disregarded only a decade after its initial enactment. In the course of the following decades, all former federal presidents have been granted honorary salaries, thereby increasing scope and cost. As a matter of fact, former federal presidents have since then drawn twice the amount of the original honorary salary to cover costs arising from their continuing public duties.

The Federal Presidents’ Honorary Salary Act has several regulatory gaps. In our view, it would be reasonable to include causes for resigning that qualify or disqualify for an honorary salary. It may also be of merit to consider linking eligibility to receipt of the honorary salary in full or in part to job tenure. Since in accordance with the raised honorary salary clause former federal presidents draw a salary equal to that of an acting president, we consider it to be adequate to develop an overall regulation on deducting additional income from the honorary salary.


In accordance with Article 6 of the federal financial regulations (the “Federal Budget Code”), federal funds may only be used to perform federal government functions. This statutory provision sets mandatory limits on using federal funding provided to former presidents’ offices. In any case, managing private affairs of a retired federal president is not covered by the provision. We also hold that such offices are not authorised to support retired federal presidents in earning additional income. In addition, in our view, federal budget funding may neither directly nor indirectly be used to cover any activities undertaken by former federal presidents’ spouses.

Frequently, former federal presidents tend to let their offices manage functions that they personally held before assuming office or that they took over only after their term of office had expired. In the two cases, these are no continuing public duties of a federal president. As continuing obligations decline in line with the lapse of time after the end of the office term, the Federal President’s Office must respond to decreasing workload of the offices. We noted with concern that the Federal President’s Office was not fully aware of the work done by the offices and did not secondguess the current standard entitlement to "a full lifetime allowance".

Past practice to set up and furnish the offices in line with the wishes and changing places of residence selected by former federal presidents resulted over the years in considerable expenditures on staff and other resources. Lessons learned in this field illustrate that centralising the offices in the city of Berlin and housing them in parliamentary buildings helps reduce cost and effort substantially. As a result of the considerable differences we noted when we checked the size and equipment of offices, we recommend setting uniform standards for the type, scope and furbishing of the offices.

There is no regulatory basis governing the reimbursement of travel expenses claimed by former federal presidents. According to current practice, the Federal President’s Office reimbursed any travel expenses claimed by former federal presidents. The Federal President’s Office failed to examine the purpose of the respective travel. In our view, eligibility for reimbursement needs to take into account as to whether a former federal president travels on behalf or in the interest of the Federal Republic of Germany, or whether he/she travels for private reasons or to generate additional personal income. Eligibility for reimbursement also needs to take into account the purpose of travel when travel expenses are claimed for staff and chief chauffeurs.

If a former federal president is no longer able to run an office for health reasons, the office is to be wound up. To verify this, the Federal President’s Office needs to periodically check the workload handled by the offices.

The Federal President’s Office needs to ensure that file management and storage at the offices complies with applicable regulations. The documents must be protected from unauthorised destruction or transfer to the private residence of a former federal president. Private documents may not be managed by federal staff on federal premises. Files dating from the active term of office of a federal president must be kept at the Federal President’s Office.


Federal budget funds in the range of millions of euros are spent annually on the physical protection of former federal presidents and property or facilities used by him/her. We recommend that the Federal Criminal Police establish and implement a tailored protection programme, scoped in line with the respective level of threat and scoped down over time. The Federal Criminal Police referred to a strategy of 2005. According to our findings, major parts of that strategy had not been implemented until the time of our audit work. We hold that the need for physical protection and safety-related programmes should be regularly reviewed and be gradually decreased over time.

Construction work to raise physical safety should no longer be funded from the departmental budget designed for the general fiscal administration (budget 60). Current practice of segregation between technical and financial responsibilities does not help use federal funds in an economic, efficient and effective manner.

The resolution adopted by the parliamentary Budget Committee dated 8 November 2012 provided for first-ever regulations on the allowance of former federal chancellors and presidents. We consider this a good first step but it has addressed only part of the problems we stated in our report. We urgently recommend developing appropriate provisions for the future that are in line with the principles of compliance and value for money.

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