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Mobile network expansion: Andreas Scheuer's next construction site


The Ministry of Transport wants to combat white spots in the cell phone network with a new GmbH. The CSU prestige project is controversial anyway - internal documents now show: The construction is slow and chaotic.

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"Cost planning necessary for the next 8 weeks": Andreas Scheuer, Minister for Transport and Digital Infrastructure

Photo: CLEMENS BILAN / POOL / EPA-EFE / Shutterstock

For years, Germany has been lagging behind in expanding the mobile network.

The CSU had therefore already promised a "powerful expansion offensive" in January 2019: because commercial mobile phone providers do not have to close the dead spots of their own accord, the state now has to take care of these "white spots".

Transport Minister Andreas Scheuer (CSU) had a federally owned GmbH with the awkward name of "Mobile Communications Infrastructure Company" (MIG) launched.

This should actually be fully operational long ago: "Our clear expectation is that the mobile communications infrastructure company will start in 2020 and organize the construction of new masts," emphasized the CSU in January last year.

But even a good two years after its announcement, the federal GmbH under the umbrella of the toll operator Toll Collect no longer brought cell phone masts and stable reception to sparsely populated areas - the project has already caused several sharp criticisms from the Federal Audit Office and considerable annoyance in the budget committee.

After the toll fiasco and the quarrels surrounding Autobahn AG, MIG has developed into another major construction site for the Ministry of Transport.

How precarious the situation is can be seen from an internal interim report from the beginning of February, which SPIEGEL was able to see.

After that, the development of the company is still considerably behind in all essential points - the company did not even have a valid tax number until the beginning of the month.

His contractual working basis with the ministry also had to be revised and finalized - among other things, "because of the project delay".

That is not a small matter, it has considerable consequences.

In the meantime, according to the documents, the company's own financial resources were apparently scarce and a new "cost planning for the next 8 weeks" necessary to ensure liquidity.

Postponed, delayed, complicated

The shaky business basis has a direct effect on the ability of the future radio hole fillers to work: For example, the Mobilfunk-GmbH could only hire new employees when the reliable contract is in place, it says: »Delay 3 months«.

Working on a cell tower (archive image)

Photo: Daniel Reinhardt / dpa

Before that, the staff would not have any office space anyway, because the construction of the planned MIG headquarters in Naumburg, Saxony-Anhalt, did not progress as planned.

A suitable property for the company's headquarters has been found, but without the agency agreement, the lease cannot be signed, the status report says.

Overall, the document reads like a single list of deficiencies: the Internet presence is "delayed", the convening of the advisory board that has been announced is just as "postponed" as the constituent meeting of the supervisory board, and procurements for the company are "slow and complicated".

The fact that the Ministry of Transport has made the company a subsidiary of Toll Collect is also proving to be problematic.

The purchases through the toll operator are "significantly more complex than expected", which leads to a "large backlog" at MIG, ie a large backlog.

On the human level, too, there seems to be room for improvement.

There are "problems in team building," it says in the structure report.

Schedule for the portal "highly endangered"

In view of this stumbling block, it is hardly surprising that the MIG is lagging behind in its actual tasks - for example in setting up a "geographic information portal" which, among other things, should help with the location of new cell phone towers.

At MIG, the necessary database and IT infrastructure have so far been missing, and the publication planned for June 30th is "highly endangered".

The problems with society are as old as the project itself. Not only the Berlin opposition parties, but also representatives of telecommunications companies doubted their necessity.

The Federal Audit Office saw the other GmbH of the federal government, in which at least 97.5 employees are to be set up and for which a budget of a quarter of a billion euros is planned until 2026, also extremely critical from the start.

After all, according to the financial regulation, the federal government may only use private legal form organizations such as the MIG if their purpose "cannot be achieved better and more economically in any other way."

According to the Federal Audit Office, the scrubbing ministry had already tricked in advance in order to be able to realize the CSU promise: the auditors received the first documents extremely late, which the ministerials tried to excuse with an "office mistake".

The work of the Court of Auditors was not "deliberately and actively hindered", they assured us in response to its reproaches.

The first complaint apparently did not change anything about the economical information policy of the Ministry of Transport towards the audit office.

The auditors did not receive a requested, more precise explanation of the objectives and profitability of the MIG until mid-December and only three days before the company was entered in the commercial register.

As a result, the auditors found themselves again hindered in their own "auditing and advisory tasks", wrote the auditors in a new report from mid-January, clearly annoyed.

According to the ministry, one is "able to act without restriction."

When the MIG employees wrote down their alarming interim status about the state-owned company, an important date was imminent: On February 10th, the budget committee dealt with the controversial project again.

Members of the Left, the Greens and the FDP wanted to freeze the funds for it.

Such scenarios are discussed in the presentation under »Risks«.

With regard to the key word "MIG financing cannot be guaranteed", the measure to be introduced is briefly: "Processing the MIG".

But the budget of the grand coalition prevailed and formulated only extremely mild conditions: The federal government should report to the committee once a year from January next on whether the MIG has achieved its goals.

When asked by the Ministry of Transport, the MIG was "fully operational".

Around five million euros are currently available for construction.

In order to have the full annual budget of around 40 million euros and all financing up to 2025 approved, "only the approval of the Federal Ministry of Finance" is required.

The development is currently being promoted by a "development staff" made up of ministry staff, Toll Collect employees and a managing director.

The lease for the office space in Naumburg should "be concluded shortly".

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Source: spiegel

All tech articles on 2021-02-23

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