rbb stops payments to ex-editor-in-chief Singelnstein
After his departure, ex-editor-in-chief Singelnstein continued to work as a consultant for rbb. Now the broadcaster has stopped paying for it – after criticism from the Berlin State Audit Office. By René Althammer, Jo Goll (rbb research team) and Marcus Engert (NDR)
Christoph Singelnstein actually retired in March 2021. But joint research by NDR and the rbb research team revealed in November 2022 that the former editor-in-chief of rbb was to receive total remuneration in the amount of his editor-in-chief salary until the end of April 2023 thanks to an additional consultancy contract.
After the report, the state audit office had checked the contract and found that payments had been made to Singelnstein in the past few months without these having been approved by rbb director Vernau. According to the rbb press office, Katrin Vernau then stopped the transfers in December 2022. A legal review of the contract is in progress.
In the summer of 2020, rbb announced that Singelnstein would retire in April 2021. The announcement surprised many at the time, as his contract had previously been extended. At the time, the broadcaster did not comment on the reasons for the premature end.
When he officially bid farewell to retirement, hardly anyone suspected that a “golden handshake” had preceded it. The ex-director, who was terminated without notice in August 2022, only pointed out when Singelnstein left that the busy editor-in-chief would continue to support the station in an advisory capacity.
At the time, the top broadcasters kept it to themselves that Singelnstein received a consulting contract worth EUR 6,300 from rbb in addition to his pension (EUR 8,700 per month). In concrete terms, this meant that he should probably continue to advise the broadcaster for as long as his original contract as editor-in-chief ran – until the end of April 2023.
Court of Auditors criticizes payments
After it became known that Christoph Singelnstein was to receive a total of around 15,000 euros a month from rbb until well after his retirement, a media shitstorm broke out again over the already crisis-ridden capital city broadcaster. “Retirement is so nice” headlined the FAZ with relish, and there was talk all over the country of a “sophisticated enrichment system”. The excitement about the “dirty broadcaster rbb” was great.
The report does not seem to have left the Berlin State Audit Office cold either. According to information from the NDR and the rbb research team, the Berlin State Audit Office then checked the contract and found that the payments should have been formally approved by the director – which did not happen.
On request, the new director Katrin Vernau said that she had stopped the payments to Singelnstein at the end of 2022 after this information from the Court of Auditors. The rbb, according to the rbb press office, also sought a conversation with the former editor-in-chief. He then “suggested his renunciation”. Singelnstein has so far left an inquiry about the processes unanswered.
Were payments illegal?
The fact that the Court of Auditors complained about the lack of a “corresponding release request” for the payments raises further questions. Were the payments for Singelnstein’s consulting work illegal? Who authorized and approved the monthly payments of 6,300 euros – booked as “author/other activity” – until December 2022?
In addition, there is another anomaly: As with other senior rbb employees, Singelnstein’s salary also recently contained a so-called “performance-related” portion, which should only be paid out if certain target agreements have been reached.
It is striking that Singelnstein received total remuneration until December 2022 that corresponded to his last salary including such a bonus. If one assumes that part of his salary should only be paid on the condition that certain goals are also achieved, the question arises as to why he apparently received the full amount.
Broadcast: rbb24 Inforadio, February 3rd, 2023, 12:00 p.m