Consulting spend for German highway reform driving up

25 October 2019 3 min. read

A major project in Germany to reform the country’s federal highway is seeing its consulting costs spiral out of control. Andreas Scheuer, Transport Minister has now admitted that the size of the work was “massively underestimated” when it was budgeted two years ago.

With a total length of about 13,000 kilometres, Germany’s federal highway system (known as Autobahn or Bundesautobahn in German) is one of the world’s longest and most dense road systems. In 2021, the introduction of new legislation will mean that hundreds of new kilometres of highway will be added into the federal mandate, as the government will then take over responsibility for motorways from regions and municipalities. 

With the handover of responsibilities, the German government wants to accelerate investments in the Autobahn. To date, local bureaucracy or regional quarrels about design, planning or funding have put a brake on the advancement of some key roads infrastructure investments, leading politicians to adopt the new legislation. 

When the programme launched, official documents said that consulting spending would amount to €24 million up to the period 2021. Now, reporting from German newspaper Spiegel has uncovered that the Ministry of Transport has revised the number upwards to €86 million – three times the original plan.Consulting spend for German highway reform driving up“In 2017, the size and importance of this reform was massively underestimated,” said Transport Minister Scheuer, a CSU politician who came into office after the programme was launched. “More money and more effort is needed to implement the reform.”

To operate the programme, four framework contracts with external consultancies have been put in place. German-origin management consulting firm Roland Berger is the main contractor, and thus set to become the main beneficiary of the much higher consulting spend. 

A political debate

Unsurprisingly, the disclosure has provided rival political parties the opportunity to criticise the in-power government. Sven-Christian Kindler, a politician of the Green Party, pointed at poor budget control within the Ministry of Transport. “This shows that Andreas Scheuer is hopelessly overwhelmed with the project. He should rely more on the government’s own expertise and less on expensive external consultants.” 

The revelation comes shortly after Ursula von der Leyen, the soon to be head of the European Commission (she starts in office on the 1st of November), was criticised in Germany for her role in out of control consulting spending on German defence projects. In addition, the ministry she headed for five years, is under investigation for suspected wrongdoing surrounding its use of outside consultants, including Accenture and McKinsey & Company.