A city in North Rhine-Westphalia has spent hundreds of thousands of euros on corona aid for a water feature. It is one of many examples of German tax squandering that the taxpayers’ association denounces in its new black book.

Germany has also squandered billions of euros in tax money in recent years. The Association of Taxpayers (BdSt) came to this conclusion in its Black Book on Tax Waste 2022/2023, which was published today. An example of tax squandering is provided by a city in North Rhine-Westphalia that used grants to costly mask a six-year-old mistake.

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The 25,000-inhabitant town of Neukirchen-Vluyn in the Ruhr area has eliminated a construction error with funds from Corona Aid. According to BdSt, the city redesigned Vluyner Platz in 2015 and 2016, but forgot trees and shade. Neukirchen-Vluyn wanted to cool down with a water feature that could be walked on and driven over, so that people no longer sweltered in the sun – but had no money for it.

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The state of North Rhine-Westphalia’s Corona aid program “Climate Resilience in Municipalities” provided a remedy in 2021. According to the Ministry of the Environment, this is intended to strengthen climate change precautions in municipalities and to boost the economy with additional orders. Neukirchen-Vluyn used the program to correct its planning mistake: it applied for 220,000 euros in funding, which was intended to completely cover the estimated planning and construction costs of the water feature.

“What does a water feature have to do with Corona aid?” asks the BdSt. The BdSt judges that funding “should correct bad planning is a common practice”. “The fact that a water fountain is also paid for with Corona aid shows how well justifications are prepared when it comes to spending taxpayers’ money.”

Worse still: According to the BdSt, the project increased in price to 292,000 euros. The cash-strapped city itself paid 72,000 euros of this. In addition, there are 29,000 euros in subsidies for four plant tubs with benches and 4,000 euros a year for maintenance.

“It is amazing that when a completely sealed area was redesigned, the shady areas were simply forgotten,” comments the BdSt. If this had not happened, the country’s funding could actually have been used for measures to prepare for climate change instead of eliminating easily avoidable mistakes.

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