Germany

   

Executive Accountability

#6
Key Findings
Despite a few recent oversight challenges, Germany falls into the top ranks internationally (rank 6) with regard to executive accountability. Its score on this measure has improved by 0.1 point relative to 2014.

Parliamentarians have sufficient resources and strong executive-oversight powers, with the latter recently reconfirmed by the courts. The Federal Court of Audit is well-funded and powerful. A parliamentary committee serving an ombuds function has limited importance, but the independence of the decades-old data-protection authority is well protected.

Despite widespread news consumption, surveys have reflected a declining interest in political and parliamentary debates, particularly among young people. Populist sentiments are becoming more widespread. However, trust in the traditional media is rising.

Decisions within the main political parties are made largely by top party elites. Employers’ organizations and unions are powerful and sophisticated. Other interest groups are increasingly influential, particularly at the local level.

Citizens’ Participatory Competence

#10

To what extent are citizens informed of public policies?

10
 9

Most citizens are well-informed of a broad range of public policies.
 8
 7
 6


Many citizens are well-informed of individual public policies.
 5
 4
 3


Few citizens are well-informed of public policies; most citizens have only a rudimental knowledge of public policies.
 2
 1

Most citizens are not aware of public policies.
Political Knowledge
6
Recent empirical analyses of German citizens’ level of political knowledge point to inconsistencies. On the one hand, the supply of independent political information is high. Germany has a diversified media ownership structure and comparatively pluralistic and decentralized television and radio markets. The internet has become an increasingly important medium for citizens to gather information. Broadcasters, radio stations and newspapers have adapted to the new circumstances by providing a great deal of their services online. Nevertheless, television news programs are the main source of information for most citizens. Around half of the population watches a news program every day.

On the other hand, some recent surveys indicate a dramatic decline in public interest in politics and in parliamentary debates in particular. Younger people were disproportionally unable to mention any parliamentary debate they followed with interest. In addition, policy knowledge depends strongly on the social status of a person’s family and their socioeconomic environment. Studies indicate that populist sentiments are becoming more widespread, while political knowledge and interest in political details is declining. Schools are not able to compensate for those deficiencies.

Citations:
Bundestag (2017): Politisches Bewusstsein von Kindern und Jugendlichen sowie ihre politische Beteiligung. Online: https://www.bundestag.de/blob/531098/1b8f7a13a4e384584fefcbcb07e6c28d/wd-9-035-17–pdf-data.pdf

https://de.statista.com/statistik/daten/studie/153820/umfrage/allgemeines-vertrauen-in-die-parteien/

Bertelsmann Stiftung (2018) Populismus-Studie
https://www.bertelsmann-stiftung.de/fileadmin/files/BSt/Publikationen/GrauePublikationen/ ZD__Studie_Po-pulis¬musbarometer_2018.pdf

http://www.infratest-dimap.de/umfragen-analysen/bundesweit/umfragen/aktuell/ wenig-ver¬trauen-in-medien¬¬berichterstattung/

Does the government publish data and information in a way that strengthens citizens’ capacity to hold the government accountable?

10
 9

The government publishes data and information in a comprehensive, timely and user-friendly way.
 8
 7
 6


The government most of the time publishes data and information in a comprehensive, timely and user-friendly way.
 5
 4
 3


The government publishes data in a limited and not timely or user-friendly way.
 2
 1

The government publishes (almost) no relevant data.
Open Government
8
Open government is a relatively new topic in German politics and policymaking. In 2003, the European Parliament and the European Council issued Directive 2003/98/EC on the re-use of public sector information. The directive’s objective is to make public sector information more readily available to the public and private information providers with minimal bureaucracy. The directive was changed several times and adjusted in 2013 and 2018. On 13 December 2006, the German Bundestag passed a bill provided for by the Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology (“Informationsweiterverwendungsgesetz”). The bill converted the first EU directive into national law. As the European directive was revised, a newer version of the law was adopted by the Bundestag in May 2015. Overall, the legislation requires that public sector information on social, economic, geographic, climate, tourism, business, patent and education issues be made available to private information suppliers and the general public.

Besides this legal obligation, the statistical offices of the federal and state governments are important sources of information for citizens. These offices provide a wealth of high-quality indicators across a large variety of fields that help citizens to assess the country’s performance. Statistical offices publish data not only through thorough detailed expert reports but also through readable and concise press releases, which are frequently cited by the media. Statistical offices in Germany enjoy a high degree of independence from politics and have a reputation for providing undistorted data.

While performance measurement is easy on the whole, the information basis is less than optimal for holding state governments accountable. Germany’s federal states are reluctant to provide the public with sufficient data to compare the performance of states. An example of this intentional lack of transparency concerns education, states systematically prevent research into and comparisons of state performance in educational achievements.

Citations:
https://www.heise.de/newsticker/meldung/Bundestag-ebnet-Weg-fuer-Verwendung-oeffentlicher-Informationen-2638583

BMWi-Beirat (2016): Wissenschaftlicher Beirat beim Bundesministerium für Wirtschaft und Energie, Mehr Transparenz in der Bildungspolitik, Gutachten des Wissenschaftlichen Beirats beim Bundesministerium für Wirtschaft und Energie.
https://www.bmwi.de/Redaktion/DE/Publikationen/Ministerium/Veroeffentlichung-Wissenschaftlicher-Beirat/wissenschaftlicher-beirat-mehr-transparenz-in-der-bildungspolitik.html

Legislative Actors’ Resources

#4

Do members of parliament have adequate personnel and structural resources to monitor government activity effectively?

10
 9

The members of parliament as a group can draw on a set of resources suited for monitoring all government activity effectively.
 8
 7
 6


The members of parliament as a group can draw on a set of resources suited for monitoring a government’s major activities.
 5
 4
 3


The members of parliament as a group can draw on a set of resources suited for selectively monitoring some government activities.
 2
 1

The resources provided to the members of parliament are not suited for any effective monitoring of the government.
Parliamentary Resources
9
The German Bundestag has adequate personnel and structural resources to effectively monitor government activity. Members of parliament can conduct their own research or obtain information from independent experts. The parliamentary library and the parliamentary research unit respectively have staffs of 175 and 450 individuals. Every member of parliament receives a monetary allowance (about €20,000 per month in 2017) allowing him or her to maintain two offices and employ, on average, two experts. The German Bundestag has a staff of around 4,800. Parliamentary groups also have resources to commission independent research studies. Compared to the United States, German members of parliament’ structural and personnel resources are modest.

Are parliamentary committees able to ask for government documents?

10
 9

Parliamentary committees may ask for most or all government documents; they are normally delivered in full and within an appropriate time frame.
 8
 7
 6


The rights of parliamentary committees to ask for government documents are slightly limited; some important documents are not delivered or are delivered incomplete or arrive too late to enable the committee to react appropriately.
 5
 4
 3


The rights of parliamentary committees to ask for government documents are considerably limited; most important documents are not delivered or delivered incomplete or arrive too late to enable the committee to react appropriately.
 2
 1

Parliamentary committees may not request government documents.
Obtaining Documents
9
The German Bundestag is a “working parliament” – that is, parliamentary committees are of great importance in preparing and discussing legislative initiatives. Outside their law preparation activities, they also serve in an oversight role with respect to government ministries. Nonetheless, the government sometimes tries to withhold information. But most documents are made public and can be accessed.

In a recent ruling from 7 November 2017, the Federal Constitutional Court again strengthened the information rights of the Bundestag vis-á-vis the government by making comprehensive information publicly available.

Citations:
https://www.bundesverfassungsgericht.de/SharedDocs/Pressemitteilungen/DE/2016/bvg16-084.html

http://www.sueddeutsche.de/politik/auskunftsrecht-verfassungsgericht-staerkt-kontrollrechte-des-bundestags-1.3738737

http://www.bundesverfassungsgericht.de/SharedDocs/Pressemitteilungen/DE/2017/bvg17-094.html

Are parliamentary committees able to summon ministers for hearings?

10
 9

Parliamentary committees may summon ministers. Ministers regularly follow invitations and are obliged to answer questions.
 8
 7
 6


The rights of parliamentary committees to summon ministers are slightly limited; ministers occasionally refuse to follow invitations or to answer questions.
 5
 4
 3


The rights of parliamentary committees to summon ministers are considerably limited; ministers frequently refuse to follow invitations or to answer questions.
 2
 1

Parliamentary committees may not summon ministers.
Summoning Ministers
10
Parliamentary committees’ right to summon ministers is established by the Basic Law. The Basic Law also gives members of the federal government or the Bundesrat the right to be heard in front of the plenum or any committee.

Are parliamentary committees able to summon experts for committee meetings?

10
 9

Parliamentary committees may summon experts.
 8
 7
 6


The rights of parliamentary committees to summon experts are slightly limited.
 5
 4
 3


The rights of parliamentary committees to summon experts are considerably limited.
 2
 1

Parliamentary committees may not summon experts.
Summoning Experts
10
Parliamentary committees are able to hold public hearings at any time, and can summon experts to attend them. This mechanism is regularly used. Rule 70 Section 1 of the Rules of Procedure of the German Bundestag states that “for the purpose of obtaining information on a subject under debate, a committee may hold public hearings of experts, representatives of interest groups and other persons who can furnish information.” Experts are often able to influence parliamentary discussions or ministerial drafts and bring about changes in the draft laws. The number of public hearings is increasing.

Are the task areas and structures of parliamentary committees suited to monitor ministries effectively?

10
 9

The match between the task areas of parliamentary committees and ministries as well as other relevant committee structures are well-suited to the effective monitoring of ministries.
 8
 7
 6


The match/mismatch between the task areas of parliamentary committees and ministries as well as other relevant committee structures are largely suited to the monitoring ministries.
 5
 4
 3


The match/mismatch between the task areas of parliamentary committees and ministries as well as other relevant committee structures are partially suited to the monitoring of ministries.
 2
 1

The match/mismatch between the task areas of parliamentary committees and ministries as well as other relevant committee structures are not at all suited to the monitoring of ministries.
Task Area Congruence
9
In general, the task areas of parliamentary committees and ministries coincide. However, this is not always the case since the Basic Law provides for the establishment of several committees that do not have a ministerial counterpart (including the Committee on the European Union; the Petitions Committee; the Parliamentary Control Panel). Furthermore, several committees sometimes deal with matters that are within the responsibility of a single ministry (e.g., the Committee on Internal Affairs and the Sports Committee both monitor activities performed by the Federal Ministry of the Interior), and a single committee sometimes deals with matters that are not clearly assigned to a single ministry. Nonetheless, parliamentary committees’ most important policy areas fully coincide with those of the ministries, enabling effective monitoring.

Media

#11

To what extent do media in your country analyze the rationale and impact of public policies?

10
 9

A clear majority of mass media brands focus on high-quality information content analyzing the rationale and impact of public policies.
 8
 7
 6


About one-half of the mass media brands focus on high-quality information content analyzing the rationale and impact of public policies. The rest produces a mix of infotainment and quality information content.
 5
 4
 3


A clear minority of mass media brands focuses on high-quality information content analyzing public policies. Several mass media brands produce superficial infotainment content only.
 2
 1

All mass media brands are dominated by superficial infotainment content.
Media Reporting
7
Public TV and radio broadcasters generally offer in-depth reports on political processes. Competition between the two main public television broadcasters, ARD and ZDF, has forced them to copy the private channels’ successful infotainment and politainment formats. Nevertheless, by international standards, ARD and ZDF, in particular, offer citizens the opportunity to obtain a relatively deep knowledge of political decision-making and their market share has stabilized in recent years. The plurality of the country’s television broadcast market is enhanced by the availability of programming from international broadcasters such as CNN, BBC World, CNBC Europe and Al-Jazeera. Public opinion polls demonstrate that public trust in the media is increasing: 42% of the Germans trust the media, 41% are indifferent and only 17% mistrust it. Only 13% belief that the media are lying, the year before it had been 20%. Trust in the media concentrates mainly on the public television and radio broadcasting.

Citations:
faz.net (2018a)Wo zeigt der Kompass denn hin?, faz.net 03.01.2018 http://www.faz.net/aktuell/feuilleton/medien/nachrichtenredaktion-von-ard-aktuell-feiert-jubilaeum-15370727.html

faz.net (2018b): Stimmungsmache, faz.net 29.01.2018 http://www.faz.net/aktuell/feuilleton/bei-der-ard-gibt-es-buhs-fuer-trump-und-jubel-fuer-die-gruenen-15423125.html

Handelsblatt (2017): Yougov survey, In Media We Trust, Say Germans, Handelsblatt global, January 4, 2017
https://global.handelsblatt.com/politics/in-media-we-trust-say-germans-672316

http://www.spiegel.de/kultur/gesellschaft/medienvertrauen-luegenpresse-hysterie-ebbt-laut-neuer-studie-ab-a-1190749.htm

Parties and Interest Associations

#8

How inclusive and open are the major parties in their internal decision-making processes?

10
 9

The party allows all party members and supporters to participate in its decisions on the most important personnel and issues. Lists of candidates and agendas of issues are open.
 8
 7
 6


The party restricts decision-making to party members. In most cases, all party members have the opportunity to participate in decisions on the most important personnel and issues. Lists of candidates and issue agendas are rather open.
 5
 4
 3


The party restricts decision-making to party members. In most cases, a number of elected delegates participate in decisions on the most important personnel and issues. Lists of candidates and issue agendas are largely controlled by the party leadership.
 2
 1

A number of party leaders participate in decisions on the most important personnel and issues. Lists of candidates and issue agendas are fully controlled and drafted by the party leadership.
Intra-party Decision-Making
7
The Basic Law stipulates intra-party democracy. Generally, party leaders of the coalition government were re-elected without facing major opposition for party leadership. No direct participation of party members regarding important policy decisions took place. The parties retained traditional hierarchical decision-making processes and candidate-election procedures. However, at the end of October 2018, Chancellor Angela Merkel announced that she would not run for re-election as CDU party chair. Breaking with traditional procedures, a plurality of candidates stood for election as party chair and ultimately three candidates openly competed for the party leadership. In an open and nationwide campaign, the candidates tried to attract the votes of party members. In December 2018, a party convention elected Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer as the new party chair. As a rule of thumb, the recent party leader will run for the chancellorship in the next national elections.

Particularly important policy challenges usually lead to fierce debates within the political parties. This was precisely the case for the SPD in the TTIP negotiations and the CDU/CSU concerning the refugee policy. However, party members have had little direct influence in these debates. Decision-making is limited to representatives at the party congresses and is firmly controlled by party elites.

To what extent are economic interest associations (e.g., employers, industry, labor) capable of formulating relevant policies?

10
 9

Most interest associations are highly capable of formulating relevant policies.
 8
 7
 6


Many interest associations are highly capable of formulating relevant policies.
 5
 4
 3


Few interest associations are highly capable of formulating relevant policies.
 2
 1

Most interest associations are not capable of formulating relevant policies.
Association Competence (Employers & Unions)
8
Economic interest associations like trade unions or employers’ associations in Germany are well-functioning organizations endowed with rich analytical and lobbying resources. They are definitely able to develop policy strategies and proposals and to present alternatives to current politics. Both trade unions and employers’ association have their own economic think tanks supporting their policy proposals through substantive research on costs and benefits of different options. Furthermore, these organizations also invest substantial resources in lobbying for their positions among the general public and do so successfully. For example, the decision to introduce a general statutory minimum wage had been preceded by trade unions’ extensive public lobbying.

To what extent are non-economic interest associations capable of formulating relevant policies?

10
 9

Most interest associations are highly capable of formulating relevant policies.
 8
 7
 6


Many interest associations are highly capable of formulating relevant policies.
 5
 4
 3


Few interest associations are highly capable of formulating relevant policies.
 2
 1

Most interest associations are not capable of formulating relevant policies.
Association Competence (Others)
8
As of November 2018, the government’s official list contained 2,327 registered associations, which again marked a moderate increase. One-third of those can be considered non-economic interest associations. Within the process of policy formulation, interest-group expertise plays a key role in providing ministerial officials with in-depth information necessary to make decisions. Citizen groups, social movements and grassroots lobbying organizations are increasingly influential actors, particularly at the local level. Policy proposals produced by non-economic interest groups can be described as reasonable, but their suggestions often appear unrealistic.

Citations:
https://www.bundestag.de/blob/189476/45b6af8b40d6db36f824ddf649be67e1/lobbylisteaktuell-data.pdf

Independent Supervisory Bodies

#9

Does there exist an independent and effective audit office?

10
 9

There exists an effective and independent audit office.
 8
 7
 6


There exists an effective and independent audit office, but its role is slightly limited.
 5
 4
 3


There exists an independent audit office, but its role is considerably limited.
 2
 1

There does not exist an independent and effective audit office.
Audit Office
10
The Federal Court of Audit (FCA) is a supreme federal authority and an independent public body. FCA members enjoy the same degree of independence as the members of the judiciary. Its task is to monitor the budget and the efficiency of state’s financial practices. It submits its annual report directly to the Bundestag, the government and the Bundesrat. The Bundestag and Bundesrat jointly elect the FCA’s president and vice-president, with candidates nominated by the federal government. According to the FCA’s website, around 1,200 court employees “audit the (state) account and determine whether public finances have been properly and efficiently administered,” while the FCA’s “authorized officers shall have access to any information they require” (Federal Budget Act Section 95 Para. 2). The reports receive considerable media attention.

Citations:
https://www.bundesrechnungshof.de

Does there exist an independent and effective ombuds office?

10
 9

There exists an effective and independent ombuds office.
 8
 7
 6


There exists an effective and independent ombuds office, but its advocacy role is slightly limited.
 5
 4
 3


There exists an independent ombuds office, but its advocacy role is considerably limited.
 2
 1

There does not exist an effective and independent ombuds office.
Ombuds Office
7
The standing parliamentary petitions committee is provided for by the Basic Law. As the “seismograph of sentiment” (annotation 2 Blickpunkt Bundestag 2010: 19; own translation), the committee deals with requests and complaints addressed to the Bundestag based on every person’s “right to address written requests or complaints to competent authorities and to the legislature” (Basic Law Art. 17). It is able to make recommendations as to whether the Bundestag should take action on particular matters. Nonetheless, its importance is limited and largely symbolic. However, the committee at least offers a parliamentary point of contact with citizens. In its 2017 report, published and debated in parliament in June 2018, the committee indicated that 11,507 petitions were submitted, an increase compared to the previous year. Two additional parliamentary ombudsmen are concerned with special requests and complaints made by patients and soldiers.

Citations:
file:///C:/Users/RB96BD~1/AppData/Local/Temp/Germany_Pet.%20Committee%20Bundestag_Annual%20Report_2017_DT.%20Committee%20Bundestag_Annual%20Report_2017_DT.pdf

Is there an independent authority in place that effectively holds government offices accountable for handling issues of data protection and privacy?

10
 9

An independent and effective data protection authority exists.
 8
 7
 6


An independent and effective data protection authority exists, but its role is slightly limited.
 5
 4
 3


A data protection authority exists, but both its independence and effectiveness are strongly limited.
 2
 1

There is no effective and independent data protection office.
Data Protection Authority
9
At the national level, there is the “Bundesbeauftragter für den Datenschutz und die Informationsfreiheit” (BfDI), which has a long history dating back to the end of the 1970s. Since January 2016, this institution has been an independent federal authority subject only to parliamentary and judicial control but no longer under the authority of the minister of the interior. Independence of the authority’s head is highly protected. A dismissal is only possible with reasons similar to those that apply to the dismissal of a lifetime judge. The authority’s budget and number of staff have considerably increased. From 2015 to 2017, its staff has increased from 90 to 160 positions and a further increase is planned. The authority’s task is to control federal institutions’ compliance with national and European data protection rules.

Citations:
Die Bundesbeauftragte für den Datenschutz und die Informationsfreiheit (2017): 26. Tätigkeitsbericht zum Datenschutz für die Jahre 2015 und 2016, Bonn.
https://www.bfdi.bund.de/SharedDocs/Publikationen/Taetigkeitsberichte/TB_BfDI/26TB_15_16.html?nn=5217212
Back to Top