Andreas Scheuer is fighting for his job. After Markus Soder's push to re-fill government posts in Berlin's GroKo, the CSU politician, who had suffered mainly because of the failed car toll, had to fear for his post. But before an important meeting of the toll investigation committee this Thursday, the opinion of a law firm puts a heavy burden on the minister.
The Ministry of Transport "violated applicable public procurement law in several respects," according to the Chatham law firm's paper, which is available to SPIEGEL. It is already doubtful whether, in view of the uncertainty as to whether a car toll is permissible under European law, there could have been an award procedure, the statement said, which the Bundestag committee of inquiry should discuss at lunchtime. The ministry itself has consistently refused to have violated applicable law – the discussion could be correspondingly heated.
The opposition accuses Scheuer of making serious mistakes at the expense of taxpayers. The federal government had signed contracts to collect and control the car toll in 2018. The European Court of Justice had declared the project illegal in mid-2019. Immediately after the verdict, the federal government terminated the contracts. However, the debacle threatens the German state to pay damages of hundreds of millions of euros. Before Christmas, the operators Kapsch and CTS Eventim intended their claims on the federal government to be 560 million euros.
According to the report, the Ministry of Transport may not always take the rules as such with the award procedure itself. It was inadmissible that the Ministry of Transport alone negotiated with the "Paspagon" consortium for the Kapsch and CTS Eventim companies, which were later awarded the contract. It was also questionable whether the award procedure had followed "common standards to ensure effective price competition". There were also doubts that the interviews had been duly recorded and kept on record.
Expert opinion: proceedings could have been stopped
It could be another attempt by Scheuer to disguise his approach to the car toll. After the debacle became known, officials from the Ministry of Transport had, according to SPIEGEL information, transported files on the toll from the Bundestag – and classified them as confidential classified information. It is suspected that the CSU politician wants to prevent the documents from being publicly discussed in committee.
But that's not all. There are also doubts as to whether the agreement finally concluded was economically viable at all, according to the report, which was first reported by the "Süddeutsche Zeitung". According to the lawyers, there were certainly alternatives. The Ministry of Transport could have ended the award procedure after the final offer had been submitted without violating public procurement law.
But the Ministry decided against it – and stuck to the toll. And wanted to use Toll Collect systems in the operation of the now failed car toll. The federal government initially temporarily and finally took over the joint venture to collect the truck toll after the operator contract expired in autumn 2018 – for around 87 million euros. The inclusion of Toll Collect in Scheuer's car toll project is also critical of the report. This may have been a major change to the operator contract, "which is not permitted without a new public tender," the report says.