FOCUS: Mr President, one year after your last meeting of FOCUS, we would like to repeat a question: what are the public finances of Germany today?
Kay Scheller: I would answer like a year ago. The federal budget is balanced. They are therefore in good condition overall.
FOCUS: Despite $ 1.9 trillion in debt and a predictable deficit of several billion in the budget?
Scheller: To date, we continue to enjoy a good economy so far. Tax revenues are rising, although they are not as hot as a year ago. We have a favorable situation in the labor market. And we have a low interest rate, with which the federal government can very well finance existing debts. But that would change when interest rates rise. At the same time, the federal budget faces major challenges due to the expected economic slowdown and demographic change.
"The diesel privilege is verified"
FOCUS: At an event in Berlin in June, you told the family: "The old things have to go too far to make room for new things." What do you mean by that?
Scheller: The Federal Court of Auditors is concerned with a stable and sustainable budget. And for that, the state must do something. He must practice spending criticism. Of course it is not easy. For example, give up support programs whose goals are not being met. Here should change the policy. Tax benefits and subsidies are also under study. The many sales tax reductions include verified or diesel privilege.
FOCUS: Did you also want to talk about solidarity overload? They recommend to completely abolish it,
Scheller: The solidarity pact expires at the end of the year. In this respect, the legal basis of this tax is eliminated. We did not just specify that.
"See considerable risk for the federal budget"
FOCUS: Groko wants to remove solos but only for 90% of taxpayers. Is it a mistake?
Scheller: We see considerable risk for the federal budget if the federal government provides solvency income beyond 2020 and the tax programming period. If the Federal Constitutional Court decided that the federal government should no longer collect the tax, it would fill a big gap in financial planning. According to the unanimous opinion of jurists specializing in constitutional law, this danger is real.
FOCUS: What size are we talking about?
Scheller: According to the coalition agreement, solos should be increased by half. In extreme cases, the revenue risk will rise to more than 50 billion euros by 2023. These will have to be repaid to the taxpayer, Karlsruhe should find that the partial retention of Solis does not exist. Is not constitutional.
"Reform proposals will overburden relief funds"
FOCUS: Recently, your accountants have warned of billions of dollars of risk associated with the planned reform of the European bailout, while Finance Minister Olaf Scholz was negotiating in Brussels. Why do not you let him do his job first?
SchellerOur job is to report the risks to the federal budget at an early stage. In the case of the ESM, we wanted to do it before the end of the negotiations at EU level. The reform proposals underway are aimed at facilitating access to stability assistance and transferring new tasks to the ESM in terms of bank bailouts. This would overload the bailout from our point of view.
FOCUS: Your critics say that in the debate on solos or MES, the Court of Auditors oversees its mandate and practices politics. What do you answer?
Scheller: It is in the nature of things that our recommendations in the political spectrum do not meet the approval in unison. But that's why we can not remember our exam results. It is not a question of being complacent. Once sound economic and financial management is concerned, it is our duty to speak.
"Can Twitter imagine me?"
FOCUS: You have also made very effective media. They appeared with their critics of the federal government's soli projects in the "ZDF Morgenmagazin" and in the podcast of Gabor Steingart.
Scheller: As a Federal Court of Auditors, we can not work alone in closed forums, especially on important policy issues. The public also has the right to make our arguments transparent and to explain them. And if we are asked questions about this, we will gladly answer to the extent possible.
FOCUS: Twitter would it be something for you?
Scheller: In order to reach even more people with our exam results, I can imagine Twitter.
FOCUS: Do you think that he needs a kind of influencer for stable finances in Germany?
Scheller: Is not it always the Court of Auditors? Especially on issues such as public debt, the application of taxes, public infrastructure, the Bundeswehr. Having no authority, he must work on his arguments and convince. We are also present in the political discourse with our recommendations. But the political actors have to decide.
"We become more aware of the facts"
FOCUS: You have been President of the Court of Auditors since 2014. Has your understanding of the role changed since then? Do you do anything different today?
Scheller: Of course, I have gained a lot of experience in five years. You become more aware of the facts, but also of the instrument box, which is available to us as an institution. Over time, more and more opportunities present themselves, such as increased early consultation with Parliament and the government. It's a natural development that you join in such an office.
FOCUS: How bold can an Auditor General appear before the government?
Scheller: Recalling politics to the standards of economy, efficiency and regularity, that is our constitutional mission. We want to do this in the years to come.
"If I'm boring, I can not spare anyone"
FOCUS: Can you understand that some politicians feel annoyed?
Scheller: This is not a category for me. Our mission is not to be comfortable. Our mission is to identify financial risks. And we have a lot of that in mind. On the expenditure side, for example, there are demographic trends or high investment requirements for rail, road and digitization. But also the energy transition. Here we must fulfill our role as a testing and counseling institution. I have taken an oath to this. If I bother, I can not spare anyone.
"Authorities could put more emphasis on digital tools"
FOCUS: For years they have been demanding that the control system be fully tested. Nevertheless, little is happening. Would you like to see ambitious reforms?
Scheller: We have indeed in the Federal Republic for years an increasing tax rate. But it is not up to us to decide which fiscal policy direction should be taken. The big question is whether the many discounts and benefits provided for in our tax legislation are still relevant. We recommend that you review it to create room for maneuver for the many tasks in the future. And there are other areas where there is still a lot to do. For example, in the tax administration. In this country, the authorities could rely even more on digital instruments to work more efficiently and raise taxes uniformly and uniformly throughout Germany.
"The tasks in the coming years are very big"
FOCUS: They are elected until 2026. What are the challenges for the next federal government?
Scheller: The tasks in the next few years are very big. Coping with climate change, precisely because of the increase in traffic volume. The development of Europe, the guarantee of the rule of law and social cohesion. That's what the Germans feel. That is why it is all the more important to have solid and sustainable finances to be able to finance tasks and allow politicians to continue to act. We will also remember the next governments.