Around 8.5 million people in Austria are again entitled to the climate bonus this year. Anyone who has entered their account details on FinanzOnline should automatically receive the money in their account. This route was intended for 7.5 million people. At least in theory. Because this year, too, there are once again payment difficulties with the climate money. One example is that, according to the Austrian Ombudsman Board, vouchers were sent out even though the climate bonus had been transferred to the same people the previous year.
According to the Climate Ministry’s website, all FinanzOnline users should have received their money by mid-September 2023. In addition, one million vouchers were to be sent by post as RSa letters by the end of October.
Ombudsman Rosenkranz had already spoken on “ZiB 1” on Sunday. “The problems we are currently seeing are manifold,” he warns. Although the Austrian Ombudsman Board is currently only aware of twenty problem cases, it is inevitable that this is just the beginning. Rosenkranz assumes that many more cases will now come to light.
One of the reasons given by the Climate Ministry for the problems is that those affected are self-employed people or people with incorrect account information. The latter range from technical errors during updating to input errors and problems during transmission. “These errors are rare, but unfortunately they do happen.”
Ombudsman Rosenkranz does not consider this explanation plausible. Completely different people would contact him. “There’s the man who gets the climate bonus on his ex-girlfriend’s account,” Rosenkranz gives as an example. There is also the case of a pensioner, “for whom the money was supposed to be transferred to her son’s account, according to the Climate Ministry. However, nothing has reached the son so far,” says the Ombudsman.
Rosenkranz is particularly annoyed by how the reported problem cases are dealt with. According to the complaint, some affected people were asked to send their documents to the service line up to three times! The serviceline told one woman who had received the climate bonus twice that she should be happy. A repayment was “not planned”.
However, the Ministry should only provide unsatisfactory information in response to the Ombudsman Board’s inquiries. “According to the constitution, we have the mandate to check everything, but we don’t get the answers,” criticizes Rosenkranz. “This is not proper administration”.
The contract with Sodexo stipulates a “minimum order value equivalent to the cost of 1,000,000 climate bonus recipients per payment cycle”. If the number of recipients falls below one million, Sodexo receives a one-off payment in the amount of the difference as compensation. However, the Ministry rejects that this keeps the voucher solution artificially large. “This insinuation is false. The climate bonus is automatically transferred to the account wherever possible. As is usual in such cases, the contract stipulates that the fixed costs of the voucher solution, which are incurred regardless of the number of vouchers, are covered. However, as the number of vouchers was well above this threshold in 2022 and again this year, this provision does not apply. If it becomes apparent that the number of vouchers will decrease, the contract can be terminated annually.”
In addition, the processing costs for the climate bonus are meager. Last year, they amounted to just 0.6 percent of the amount paid. This is many times lower than for comparable projects.
According to the Austrian Ombudsman Board, anyone who has not yet received the climate bonus must be patient. This is because there is no right to payment of the climate money until June 2024. Nevertheless, Ombudsman Rosenkranz is appealing to the Ministry of Climate Action to deliver now. “People rightly expect the money to come now,” Rosenkranz demands in an interview with “Heute.”
This is not the first time Leonore Gewessler’s Green Ministry has had problems paying the climate bonus. Last year, around 1,700 people complained to the Austrian Ombudsman Board that they had not received the climate bonus.
- source: heute.at/picture:klimabonus.at
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