The state pays for the accommodation of social assistance recipients. As with other tenants, additional costs must be billed annually. But because the accounts largely contain errors, the state squanders millions.

In the spring, annual bills arrive in many places – electricity and gas, for example, as well as rental utility bills. It is not uncommon for the recipient to be shocked, as was the case with a pensioner in Duisburg who suddenly had to pay 8,000 euros for electricity. Or the tenant of a two-room apartment in Cologne who received a bill of 900 euros.

The good news: Often such amounts do not have to be paid because the billing is incorrect. In recent years, for example, price controls have been forgotten or meter readings have been read incorrectly. The bad news: Those affected also need to know that errors occur so frequently.

This problem also affects the already cash-strapped state coffers. The authorities pay the accommodation for recipients of social assistance, such as citizen’s benefit. Overall, the job centers pay the rents and additional costs of the 2.6 million so-called communities of need.

And it is precisely these billings that are often too high, says Chris Möller, founder of the company Mineko, to “Welt”. Möller’s company checks utility bills – a total of 120,000, and this year alone there are likely to be a good 50,000. The sad conclusion: Nine out of ten invoices are incorrect, says Möller.

But the authorities don’t check this. Based on the 220 euros that are paid too much on average, 570 million euros in tax money are lost every year. The private tenants in the 21 million rental apartments, in turn, pay 6.65 billion euros too much. Here, the overpaid additional costs amount to around 317 euros per year. The difference arises from the fact that the apartments paid for by the state are usually smaller. However, the error rate in billing is even slightly higher here.

Many landlords, Möller told Die Welt, also knew that the job centers do not check the invoices and would charge the prices extra higher. “Tenants whose operating costs are paid by the office are popular because in these cases the bills are not checked and are paid directly by the office.”

At best, the invoices would be checked again on a random basis. But because so many calculations are wrong anyway, the scale is distorted anyway. Comparison tables would therefore be of little help. Möller therefore calls for more controls: “Especially today, when inflation is putting a strain on many people, it is also important for public bodies to pay attention to incorrect billing and to check rather than trust.”

“Every billing statement would have to be checked,” the entrepreneur continues, comparing a regular check with the TÜV for cars. According to Die Welt, the inspection by Möller’s company costs between 49 and 89 euros, depending on the apartment, but is free with legal protection insurance.

Möller also offers this service for companies. The potential for errors is much greater here. Errors were also found in a hotel’s utility bill. But it wasn’t about a few thousand euros – but an amount of 1.2 million.