- Defense Minister von der Leyen is under pressure in the consultant affair.
- A senior Procurement official accuses the Ministry of having virtually passed decisions on behalf of a particular consultancy firm in his office.
- So far, the Ministry had mainly made the Procurement Office responsible for the fact that, in many cases, external orders had been issued to public procurement law.
In the affair over questionable consultancy contracts in the Ministry of Defense, the management is under pressure from Minister Ursula von der Leyen (CDU). Gerhard M., a senior official of the Procurement Office in Koblenz, which is responsible for the contract review and its implementation, accuses the Ministry of having virtually passed decisions in favor of a particular consultant to its authority.
Specifically, it concerns an IT data project for the A 400 M airliner. He had heard from a representative of the consultancy firm over the phone that she had long worked for the Ministry on this matter, although it had not yet been completely clarified whether the planned financing would be available was permissible under a specific framework contract. But to check that would have been the task of his authority. "I have never experienced anything like this," said the 57-year-old head of division on Thursday evening as a witness in the Committee of Inquiry of the Bundestag, which is currently working the parliamentary process.
Everything had already been "clarified" when this process reached the Procurement Office. The official had the impression that his authority was only "needed to make a call". He concluded that he did not want to further examine the admissibility of the intended financing. The project was finally waved through pressure from the ministry in such a short time that a profound examination would not have been possible.
The committee also wants to pursue the suspicion of nepotism
So far, the Ministry had mainly made the Procurement Office responsible for the fact that, in many cases, external orders had been issued to public procurement law. The Bundesrechnungshof had brought these cases to light in 2018 during a control investigation and pointed out gross violations. Because in some cases close, partly personal relations exist between top officials and representatives of consulting firms, which finally came to assignments, the committee also wants to investigate the suspicion of nepotism.
In a separate investigation, the ministry had at least acquitted the officials concerned of errors that would lead to further disciplinary consequences.
The appearance of the official before the committee is likely to have consequences for a former close confidant of Minister von der Leyen: It is about the former Secretary of State Katrin Suder. Von der Leyen, the former McKinsey manager, had come to the Ministry because she wanted more expertise from outside. The staff stood for the desired closer cooperation with the business community. Unter der Leyen, the advisory service in the house was extended. At the beginning of 2018, Suder had left the Ministry at his own request. So far, it has clearly rejected any improper interference in procurement procedures. Officer M. said in the committee that the representative of the consultant had told him that it had been Secretary of State Suder who had commissioned her. The committee will also listen to Suder.
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