German army wastes millions on sunscreen, lip balm - auditors

BERLIN Wed Nov 14, 2012 1:46am IST

German army Bundeswehr bomb disposal expert, first Sergeant Daniel Z. (L) conducts a training course for German soldiers on how easy it is to mix explosives with sugar and chemicals that are readily available to the general public, at an army camp in Mazar-i-Sharif August 20, 2012. REUTERS/Sabine Siebold

German army Bundeswehr bomb disposal expert, first Sergeant Daniel Z. (L) conducts a training course for German soldiers on how easy it is to mix explosives with sugar and chemicals that are readily available to the general public, at an army camp in Mazar-i-Sharif August 20, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Sabine Siebold

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BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany's army is wasting millions of euros of taxpayers' money producing its own sunscreen, cough drops and lip balm rather than buying them off the shelf, auditors said on Tuesday.

Compounding the problem, about 90 percent of some the military's own personal care products end up being thrown away, said the report by the German Federal Court of Auditors.

"There's a lot of scope to eliminate waste," Court of Auditors president Dieter Engels told reporters in Berlin.

The annual report said the army had spent 20 million euros on building a facility to produce its own products, which also included insect repellent and nasal sprays.

The auditors issued a list of broader recommendations to tighten up the country's tax administration system and other areas which Engels estimated could save Germany around 10 billion euros a year.

The report will embarrass many in Germany where officials have been especially vocal in criticising Greece and other crisis-hit euro zone countries for failing to collect taxes efficiently.

The auditors questioned the wisdom of a reduction in the number of tax office auditing staff, which led to a reduction in the number of audits and a corresponding drop in income tax revenues from 911 million euros in 2005 to 787 million euros in 2010.

"It's a question of cost effectiveness," said Engels. "That doesn't always mean the cheapest way is the best way but rather it's important to keep the cost-benefit ratio in mind."

The federal government could reduce its own deficit and the national debt at a faster pace by eliminating some of the waste, the report said.

"Net new borrowing could be reduced even further this year," said Engels, referring to the government's recent announcement that net new borrowing would be 17.1 billion euros in 2013.

The government expects to have a balanced budget in 2014.

The auditors cited one federal agency that had 4,350 computers but only 1,800 workers.

(Additional reporting by Gernot Heller; Writing By Erik Kirschbaum; Editing by Andrew Heavens)

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