European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen was in Berlin yesterday (13 February) to answer questions about contracting external experts during her time as Germany’s defence minister. Following the reports of vast sums having been paid to these consultants and allegations of nepotism in the hiring process, a parliamentary inquiry is now seeking to determine the legality of the contracts awarded, as well as von der Leyen’s knowledge of what she called “mistakes”.
For a more detailed account of the events, read Philipp Grüll’s full story.
The allegations first emerged in 2018 when a report from the Federal Court of Auditors cast doubts on the legality and cost-effectiveness of the defence ministry’s hiring process. Under von der Leyen’s leadership, the ministry allocated a substantial budget for external consultants spending €155 million in the first half of 2019 alone.
Shortly after the report’s publication, the FDP, the Left, and the Greens opened an inquiry in the Bundestag Defence Committee.
Von der Leyen has publicly acknowledged and condemned legal violations in the procurement of public contracts, but it is unclear how much she knew about it at the time. However, after returning her mobile phones with no data left on them, some members of the opposition believe there may be a cover-up.
Before the investigative committee, von der Leyen defended the ministry’s use of consultants, saying they were necessary to help modernise the Bundeswehr to address complex challenges such as hybrid conflicts and terrorism.
The investigation’s final report is expected to be finished by June and will then be sent to the public prosecutor’s office. (Sarah Lawton | EURACTIV.de)