Connect with us

Politics

Von der Leyen admits ‘mistakes’ in contracting scandal but stands her ground



BERLIN — European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on Thursday told German MPs investigating a contracting scandal that mistakes had been made during her tenure as defense minister but praised the official at the center of the affair.

An investigative committee of the German parliament — the toughest instrument that lawmakers can use to probe government misdeeds — is looking into how lucrative contracts from the defense ministry while von der Leyen was in charge were awarded to outside consultants without proper oversight, and whether a network of informal personal connections facilitated those deals.

Von der Leyen, who served as Germany’s defense minister from 2013 to 2019 before becoming the new Commission chief, has previously blamed the problems on a mixture of negligence, corner-cutting and mistakes by individuals overwhelmed by their work. But others have argued that some consultants had privileged access to ministry officials that helped them circumvent rules and win contracts worth millions of euros.

Although there is no suggestion that von der Leyen herself was part of this network, the increased use of external consultants became a hallmark of her tenure as defense minister.

Von der Leyen was the last witness of a group of 40 people to be quizzed by the committee over a period of several months.

Von der Leyen said she had not heard about these issues before September 2018, but admitted she wished she had “more clarity” earlier on.

Appearing calm as she addressed lawmakers, von der Leyen said “mistakes have been made,” adding that she regretted this.

“I unfortunately cannot turn back time,” she said during the five-hour-long hearing, adding that she and her former ministry staff had done “everything possible” to account for the past.

The so-called “consulting affair” first became public in fall 2018 after a leaked report by the country’s National Audit Office described dozens of irregularities in the hiring of external consultants by the defense ministry, and indicated that those consultants played a more significant role than the ministry had publicly claimed.

Von der Leyen said she had not heard about these issues before September 2018, but admitted she wished she had “more clarity” earlier on.

At the center of the committee’s investigations is Katrin Suder, a former McKinsey consultant who became von der Leyen’s deputy in charge of the defense ministry’s arms department. Suder resigned from her post in April 2018.

Von der Leyen — who had previously worked with Suder while serving as Germany’s labor minister — praised her “brilliant and excellent” work repeatedly during the hearing, saying she had “always trusted Suder” and would “continue to do so.”

Von der Leyen stated she had no influence over hiring decisions made under Suder, but defended the ministry’s use of external consultants, which said were necessary “support services” to digitize a formerly outdated ministry.

“External consultations in the federal ministry of defense have always existed, still exist and always will exist,” von der Leyen said.

The committee has now concluded its hearings and is expected to present its findings before the German parliament’s summer recess.



Source link

قالب وردپرس

Continue Reading
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Providence
46°
Sunny
06:2619:12 EDT
Feels like: 42°F
Wind: 8mph ENE
Humidity: 46%
Pressure: 30"Hg
UV index: 0
TueWedThu
min 30°F
46/36°F
51/41°F
Advertisement

Top News cnn