[Excerpt] Germany is a federal country made up of 16 federal states (Länder) and the federation (Bund). The Länder are states with sovereign rights and responsibilities that are not devolved from the federation, but are granted to them by the Basic Law. Each state has its own government, parliament, courts and legislative as well as executive powers. Therefore, power is divided between the federation and the states according to tasks and functions. As a rule, the Basic Law stipulates that the exercise of state powers is a matter for the federal states.
The federation has administrative and legislative power only in those areas laid down by the Basic Law. For example, regarding working conditions for public employees, it has very limited scope for the regulation of state officials. At federal and state level, administrative functions are carried out by the ‘direct’ state administration (by federal and state authorities). However, there are also legally independent administrative bodies and independent or semi-independent agencies that form the ‘indirect’ public administration (Bach, 2012). The legally and organisationally independent institutions of the ‘indirect’ administration are subject only to limited state supervision or are completely independent, as is the case with Germany’s central bank, the Bundesbank (German Federal Ministry of the Interior, 2009).
However, responsibility for public administration does not lie with the federation and the states alone. Under the Basic Law, local matters are dealt with independently by the bodies of local self-government (local authorities). In addition, local authorities also perform state functions on behalf of the federal and state governments (German Federal Ministry of the Interior, 2009).