Berlin/Bochum (dpa) – The suspicion of billing fraud in corona burger tests is causing a furore. The Public Prosecution Service for Economic Crime in Bochum has launched an investigation.
This was confirmed on Saturday by a spokesman for the authority of the German news agency in Düsseldorf. The investigation is being conducted against two executives of a company in Bochum that operates test sites at several locations. The reason for the investigation was therefore research by WDR, NDR and “Süddeutscher Zeitung” (SZ).
As the public prosecutor in Bochum confirms, business premises and private apartments in the Ruhr area have already been searched. Documents were also seized. The authority declined to give the name of the suspected company.
The political debate also gained momentum given the potential for fraud. The SPD attacked Health Minister Jens Spahn (CDU). The first parliamentary director of the SPD parliamentary group, Carsten Schneider, told the German news agency on Saturday: “After the masks, now the rapid tests. The management failure at the Ministry of Health has reached unacceptable proportions.” Spahn ignored warnings and advice from MPs from the coalition factions about the testing conditions. “He is responsible for the responsible use of taxpayers’ money and must immediately stop self-service.”
The federal government’s corona test scheme has been providing citizen tests since March. In April, the Association of Statutory Physicians (KV) settled the costs with the Federal Social Security Service for the first time. The test centers receive 18 euros per test. A total of 660 million euros was transferred in April and May.
After investigation by SZ, NDR and WDR, the system invites billing fraud because there is no control. Samples at a test site in Cologne showed that instead of 70 samples actually taken, nearly 1000 had been charged. Samples in Essen and Münster, among others, have revealed something similar. The report points to the lack of control on the part of the authorities.
Trade union deputy Thorsten Frei said on Saturday: “It is a good signal that the Bochum Public Prosecutor’s Office has launched investigations into suspected fraud at Corona test sites. Because if such accounting fraud really existed, taxpayers would end up being ripped off. It is therefore right that the Public Prosecution Service takes a good look at this and continues consistently.”
A spokesperson for the Federal Justice Department said on request on Saturday: “Close audits of accounts by Corona testing centers should be made if there are indications of irregularities. Suspicions of fraud require consistent criminal investigations.” Commercial fraud is punishable by up to ten years in prison under the Penal Code.
The spokeswoman for the health policy of the CDU/CSU faction, Karin Maag, told the dpa: “There is nowhere to exclude criminal energy. However, I have not yet found reliable figures.” Since the centers are supposed to keep the documents, they assume that the states will at least arbitrarily check the number of cases invoiced and the billing documents received by the associations of statutory health insurance physicians. “Of course, if this were to lead to irregularities, specific cases would have to be investigated.”