Federal government: Traffic light legislative projects must now go to the “digital check”
Anyone who asks about bureaucracy experiences hears a lot of lamentations. The most recent examples are the application for corona aid or the property tax return. Does the “digital check” now provide a remedy?
New draft laws and ordinances by the federal government will be subjected to a so-called digital check from April 1st, the results of which will be publicly available. It is automatically checked whether a digital implementation was included in the respective project.
In addition, experts check whether the associated processes are easy for administrative staff, citizens and companies to manage or whether they belong more in the category of bureaucratic pentathlon – with the disciplines of printing out, filling out, sending, hoping and waiting.
“The digitalization is one of the biggest levers for reducing bureaucracy – the prerequisite, of course, is that you use the lever in the right direction,” says Malte Spitz, member of the National Regulatory Control Council of the German Press Agency. In practice, it has so far been the case that citizens Citizens and companies are practically helpless at the mercy of procedures that only run analogously or that cause excessive demands in the digital implementation – apart from the possibility of punishing those responsible for politics at the ballot box in the next election.
Pointed, who is a member of the ten-strong panel as rapporteur on digital administration, does not want to promise too much. “The next 18 months will show whether the political will associated with the introduction of the digital check seeps down to the speakers who are involved in the draft legislation.”
A questionnaire is part of the “digital check”.
The Regulatory Control Council is responsible for the “digital check”. Since January, the independent body has been examining all draft laws, ordinances and formulation aids that are being developed in the federal ministries for their digital suitability. In order to give the ministries the opportunity to adjust to this, the results have so far only been passed on internally. From April onwards they should then be part of the draft law be.
A commitment of federal governmentto implement the panel’s recommendations does not exist. However, ministries that are resistant to advice must expect that the members of the Bundestag and the Bundesrat will use the advice of the Council to demand changes to the respective draft.
Part of the “digital check” is a questionnaire that has to be filled out in the ministry that bears the main responsibility for a new regulation. For example, it is then asked whether the project requires an adjustment of an IT solution or how data that is to be newly collected is stored and, if necessary, forwarded.
“Ideally, a close exchange starts right at the beginning of the process, when a draft law is being prepared in a ministry,” says Anika Wiest, who is responsible for the “digital check” as a consultant at the Regulatory Control Council. What should be avoided when collecting and forwarding data, for example, is that administrative officials have to constantly send individual, possibly unencrypted e-mails or citizens have to re-enter data that the state already has elsewhere. The latter is the case, for example, with the property tax return.
“Multiple laws show how urgent the digital check is”
However, according to the Regulatory Control Council, an extended “digital check” is not necessary for all of the 400 regulations, laws and formulation aids that the federal government produces each year. If, for example, a training ordinance is slightly changed or a regulation is extended, there may be no need for action in terms of digitization.
However, this does not apply to the majority of the changes. The director of the European Center for Digital Competitiveness at the ESCP Business School in Berlin, Philip Meissner, says: “A large number of laws have shown how urgent the digital check is: electronic sick leave, for example, the payment of corona aid, the complex and difficult to understand property tax return or the law to expand the beneficiaries for the housing benefit.
With all of these projects, he sees “massive disadvantages for citizens and companies” through non-digital implementation – “both in terms of the effort required for the application and the processing time”. In his opinion, a better digital process would have made the hiring of a large number of new employees superfluous in the case of housing benefit, for example.
As an independent advisory and control body, the National Regulatory Control Council has already had the task of supporting the federal government in reducing the bureaucratic costs caused by legislation. He appraises legislative projects, forecasts the bureaucracy costs and gives an opinion. The council is supported in its work by a secretariat that currently has 19 employees. A further three positions are to be filled by the end of April.