Laws were apparently broken as part of the program by Germany’s Federal Employment Agency (BA) to provide German language lessons for refugees as emergency aid.
“In a very few cases, criminal charges have been filed because of the suspicion of attempted fraud,” a spokeswoman for the agency said.
Underlying the issue is a report from the country’s Court of Auditors. According to the report, there were billing inconsistencies in the introductory courses by certain institutions. There is talk of double funding and double billing.
“When it comes to double funding and double billing, then that is clearly fraud. I demand a sharp review of all measures, as well as consequences for the institutions.”
The BA says the doubling-up happens when the participants change their place of residence. This happens as individuals move from an initial entry facility to various types of refugee accommodations, often not in the same city.
“If it was documented that the participants had started a new course, then that particular institution was paid for the participation,” said the spokeswoman.
There were also apparently “mistakes in the management of the educational institutions,” which “created a challenge preparing courses on short notice, especially in light of the fact that some participants were unable to show identification from their country of origin,” she said. This had made the correct registration of the participants under their real names “sometimes very difficult,” she added.
Many language course providers, however, “after our intervention had corrected their invoices to lower amounts based on digital comparisons,” emphasized the spokeswoman.
That included, for example, cases of double registration or the registration of minors. Thus, of the more than 230,000 originally reported course participants, the final total was only about 190,000.
Previously, the president of the taxpayer association, Reiner Holznagel, had strongly criticized the Employment Agency.
“When it comes to double funding and double billing, then that is clearly fraud. I demand a sharp review of all measures, as well as consequences for the institutions. The taxpayer should not be cheated here,” Mr. Holznagel told Handelsblatt.
Dietmar Neuerer is the politics correspondent for Handelsblatt Online based in Berlin. Peter Thelen covers politics and labor relations for Handelsblatt. To contact the authors: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com