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Government admits to Hartz IV reform error

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Government admits to Hartz IV reform error
Labour Minister Ursula von der Leyen. Photo: DPA
17:27 CEST+02:00
The Labour Ministry admitted on Wednesday it made a numerical error in its draft law on the controversial €5 rise in long-term unemployment benefits, fuelling opposition claims that the new rate has been calculated in a slipshod manner.

Labour Minister Ursula von der Leyen's spokesman Jens Flosdorff acknowledged there had “been a mix-up in numbers during the transfer of data from an Excel table to a word document” in an explanatory statement accompanying the bill.

Flosdorff stressed, however, that the error had no effect whatsoever on the calculation of the new standard rate of Hartz IV payments, according to news magazine Der Spiegel.

“It is very annoying and it must not happen,” he said of the error. “(But) this mix-up of numbers never fed into a sum total, so it had no effect on the size of the standard rate.”

The figure in the text of the bill itself and the underlying calculations for the payment rate were “correct throughout,” he said.

Still, the mistake is likely to be seized upon by opposition parties because it exposes the government to claims that the new rate has been carefully and transparently calculated as it claims.

Opposition parties, unions and welfare advocates claim the government has used incorrect and possibly even manipulated figures to arrive at the new payment rate of €364, up from the existing €359. Angela Merkel's centre-right coalition government was forced to revise the payment rate after the Constitutional Court ruled in February that the rate had not been calculated in a fair and transparent way.

The centre-left Social Democrats' (SPD) chief whip, Thomas Oppermann told broadcaster ARD earlier in the day there was “considerable doubt that the numbers are correct.”

“This government fiddled with its reference parameters,” Oppermann said, adding that the coalition should prepare for a chilly reception from the upper house of parliament during the welfare reform debate.

In fact the original text of the draft law carried out addition of the 12 individual items from food and drink through to sundry services is correct.

The total adds up to €361.81, but the government allowed for inflation through to 2011, rounding it up to €364.

However, while poring over the extensive background document to the bill, SPD deputy parliamentary leader Elke Ferner noticed a puzzling inconsistency.

In the law, €31.96 is allowed for communications (such as phone, post and internet) and €39.96 for “recreation, entertainment and culture.”

But in a table in the explanatory text, €39.96 appears also for telecommunications.

In the explanatory text itself, €31.96 appears as the figure for recreation, entertainment and culture.

The result is that the total for recipients works out either to €369.81 or €353.81 – either way the wrong amount.

The Local/dw

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