That’s Not in the Rule Book! | Culture| Arts, music and lifestyle reporting from Germany | DW | 09.09.2004
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That’s Not in the Rule Book!

German civil servants are often labelled as more concerned with making check marks in boxes than actually doing work. It’s easy to see why after one city employee was fined €300 for trying to cut through the red tape.


Just check the right box and everything will be fine

Civil servants apparently aren’t paid enough to think for themselves, they should just do as they’re told. That’s the message an administrative court’s disciplinary chamber in Munich had for one of the city’s employees when he made some changes on his own, according to Thursday’s Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper.

Some may think he’s just a headstrong clerical employee, but no one could compel the 57-year-old to file records according to the phonetic alphabet, which would have required him to file "Knight" under "n." After all, the regular alphabet covered all his ABC needs for so many years.

Diskussion um Stasi-Akten und Gauck-Behörde 1992

Doesn't look like we'll be needing these anymore!

Then, when he decided to throw away over 20,000 index cards -- which referred to nonexistent files -- it was clear to everyone in Munich’s city hall that someone had to stop this renegade record-keeper.

Slow down with all the improvements

The prosecutor argued that changes, even improvements, can’t just be implemented willy-nilly. Germany has rules and regulations which exist for just these reasons. It could lead to chaos if rebel filers kept track of paperwork any way they wanted.

The court’s chief judge saw things the same way. While the chief justice saw fit to lower the man’s fine from €2,000 ($2,342) to €300, she also warned him that changes, no matter how well meant, cannot be put in place by anyone and definitely “not as fast” as he acted.

It’s still unclear who has the unenviable task of filing some 16,000 index cards for a second time, a process officials said could take months.

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