WOB value



Stylish German MPs trigger WoB-case about business secrets

Members of the German federal Parliament Bundestag in 2009 ordered stylish Mont Blanc pens for €68.000. An obvious story for tabloid daily newspaper Bild.
The journalist behind the Bild-story asked the Bundestag about who had ordered the pens, and had to go to court. During the case in Berlin at the end of 2010 the Bundestag administration made three arguments against disclosure. One about business secrets, one about the protection of the private life of the members of the Bundestag and one about the administrative burden.
To check the costs, the parliament’s administration argued, they would have to go through 308 files with each 400 pages, this the administration considered an unproportionate work load. According to the report from the court proceedings by German newsmagazine Stern this argument was void. “300 files are nothing special,” the judge is reported to have said. Annoying but possible, was her comment.
The next argument against disclosure concerned the business secrets of the company that takes care of the office supply to the members of the Bundestag. However – what would be risked by disclosing the price, the presiding judge asked – again according to the Stern court report. If competing companies used the information to make an offer at a lower cost that would be no problem, she stated. On the contrary: “That would be fabulous, then the tax payer would save money.”
The case is expected to go on to the highest German court on administrative questions, the Bundesverwaltungsgericht.

By Brigitte Alfter


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