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Finance

German auditors say spending still wasteful

Federal auditors have embarrassed German advocates of harsh austerities in Greece and other eurozone countries by uncovering billions of euros in German budgetary 'waste', including doubtful sunscreen for the military.

ARCHIV - Das Eingangsportal des Umweltbundesamtes (UBA), Deutschlands Zentrale Umweltbehörde, aufgenommen am 20.04.2010 in Dessau-Roßlau. Altmaier besucht am Donnerstag das Umweltbundesamt. Foto: Peter Endig/dpa (zu dpa «Altmaier besucht Umweltbundesamt in Dessau-Roßlau» vom 27.09.2012) +++(c) dpa - Bildfunk+++

Umweltbundesamt UBA Dessau-Roßlau

Federal Court of Audit President Dieter Engels, presenting his entity's annual report in Berlin on Tuesday, said Germany's deficit and national debt could be reduced faster if tougher cost-benefit checks were applied.

"That doesn't always mean the cheapest way is the best way," Engels said. "There's a lot of scope to eliminate waste."

As examples, he cited a 20 million euro ($25.4 million) Bundeswehr army facility that produces sunscreen, insect repellent and nasal sprays. Instead of servicing German troops in Afghanistan and Kosovo, 90 percent of the product ended up in storage.

As other examples, he cited the federal insurance bureau's inability to trace 100 laptops and the underutilization of a buoy-laying ship intended for northern Germany's shipping river the Ems.

Purchased for 28 million euros, the vessel was then converted for 11 million euros into a rig for firefighting and chemicals accidents, leaving it inoperable for river channel marking.

"Then, ships designed for firefighting have to be kept at base ready for dispatch and cannot be diverted to other locations to drop buoys," said Engels.

The chief auditor also said if tax authorities across Germany used information technology better and had more inspectors they could regain more revenues worth hundreds of millions of euros.

The deputy leader of the opposition Social Democrats's parliamentary caucus Joachim Poss said the Court of Audit's report amounted to a reprimand for Chancellor Angela Merkel's center-right government.

Instead of making savings intelligently, her government's expenditure decisions had been aimless, Poss said.

The budgetary spokesman of Merkel's conservative Christian Democrats, Norbert Barthle, said the report's suggestions were helpful in preventing new borrowings.

For 2013, Merkel's government plans 17 billion euros in new borrowings, but with further cutbacks leading to a balanced budget in 2016.

ipj/hc (dpa, dapd, Reuters)