In Depth

Ursula von der Leyen: EU commission president cleared in ‘contract scandal’

The German politician has admitted ‘mistakes’ were made by her officials

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen was not to blame for a contracting scandal during her tenure as Germany’s defence minister, according to a newly released report from the country’s governing parties.

The 75-page document concludes that von der Leyen “does not carry responsibility for awarding lucrative contracts from the Defence Ministry to outside consultants without proper oversight”, according to Politico.

The report says that during her time as defence boss, from 2013 until last summer, von der Leyen “hardly ever signed a decision paper on the investigated cases herself”, and that while “her office was always informed of the decisive events”, the decisions were made by officials at a lower level.

A special parliamentary committee was set up early last year to investigate how and why contracts worth hundreds of millions of euros “were awarded to private consultancy firms without proper oversight”, The Telegraph reports.

MPs from the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), Christian Social Union (CSU) and Social Democratic Party (SPD) have been looking into allegations that “consultants exploited personal connections to senior ministry officials to bypass official procedures”, the newspaper says.

Von der Leyen admitted to the German parliament in 2018 that “negligence by overworked officials” had led to “mistakes”.

She repeated those claims in February, telling the investigative committee that “mistakes had been made” below her level and without her knowledge.

Although the draft report on the findings exonerates the EU president of “direct blame for the scandal”, says Politico, “one SPD member of the committee, Dennis Rohde, stressed that she ‘carries the political responsibility’ for the deficiencies”.

Under her leadership of the Defence Ministry, “a disregard for public procurement rules developed”, Rohde tweeted this week.

Von der Leyen has faced further criticism over the revelation in December that two of her mobile phones, “which could have been used as evidence in the inquiry”, had been wiped, adds Politico.

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