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Guide no. 01/03: Appropriate federal oversight over constituent states’ benefit granting practices

Guidelines

(1) Federal Government departments are encouraged to ensure appropriate and effective oversight over how the states implement laws on the granting of pecuniary benefits. To this end, they should agree with the states on regular non-indication-based sample checks and to arrange for receiving comprehensive reports about the result of such checks.

(2) Moreover, the Federal Interior Ministry and the other Federal Government departments concerned are encouraged to jointly develop cross-departmental guidelines on federal oversight.

 

Background

In 2010, the German SAI audited federal oversight over how the states implement laws on the granting of pecuniary benefits. Among other legislation, this concerns the Conscripts and Dependants Maintenance Act, the Housing Benefits Act and the Federal Parental Benefit Act. Federal oversight over the management of the related benefits is exercised by various Federal Government departments. These have the task to monitor the regularity and expediency of implementation of the laws by the states.

(1) We found shortcomings in the exercise of federal oversight. An analysis of sample checks of benefit award notices to conscripts revealed that more than one third of these notices contained errors. We found similarly high error rates in the processing of claims to housing benefit of self-employed persons and to parental benefit. This resulted in avoidable excessive federal expenditure. The Federal Government departments did not make sure that the states regularly conducted non-indication-based checks of the work of their awarding authorities. The Federal Government departments were little aware of the way and quality in which the awarding authorities worked, e.g. where third parties approached them with questions, complaints or petitions.

We believe that overseeing the work of the awarding authorities is absolutely needed for ensuring a consistent, legal and expedient administration by the states of the laws granting pecuniary benefits. Therefore, steps should be taken to ensure that the states systematically monitor mission performance of the awarding authorities by means of periodical sample checks. Based on these checks, the exchange of information and experiences between the Federal Government departments and the states should be intensified.

(2) The Federal Government departments were not clearly aware and uncertain about the scope of their rights to be informed and the respective duties of the states. There was neither administrative guidance nor any other instruction to specify the requirements for effective and expedient federal oversight and the way in which this task is to be performed.

In our opinion, there is a lack of cross-departmental guidance with recommendations for expedient and effective arrangements for exercising federal oversight. Such guidance could facilitate consistent federal oversight practices in the states. It is incumbent on the Federal Interior Ministry to develop guidance on administrative organisation for the other government departments and to ensure cross-departmental exchange of experiences and knowledge.

Notes

On 1 February 2013, the Public Accounts Committee of the Budget Committee of German Parliament endorsed our annual report item 3/2012 “Insufficient federal oversight over how the states implemented law on the granting of pecuniary benefits”.

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