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European Union Corona Vaccine Procurement

Photo Credit and Description: European Union Commission President, Ursula Von Der Leyen.

What Is Ursula Von Der Leyen Hiding? EU Commission President Refusing To Give Information To Court Of Auditors About Vaccine Negotiations Worth Billions With Pfizer/Biontech – Contract Irregularities Suspected

European Union Commission President Ursula von der Leyen is under pressure. She is accused of conducting an information blockade on the details of what is by far the largest contract in the European Union for the procurement of corona vaccines, worth a gigantic 35 billion Euros. But this is not the first time Von Der Leyen is accused of irregularities in the awarding of contracts.

According to the Court of Auditors of the European Parliament, EC president Von Der Leyen has refused to provide any information about her negotiation talks with Biontech/Pfizer boss Albert Bourla for vaccine procurement.

Referring to the exchange as “preliminary negotiations”, the auditors asked the Commission for information such as experts involved, timetable, records, details of the agreed terms.

The inspection is part of a special report on European vaccine procurement.
EU rules are clear: written exchanges must be disclosed to the public.

But Von Der Leyen declined the request for information.

“No information was transmitted,” the inspectors told the Berliner Morgenpost. The behaviour is unusual and the inspectors are stunned.

Von der Leyen reportedly conducted the preliminary negotiations with the Pfizer boss in March 2021 without involving the joint negotiating team, as required by Commission procedures. It is also unusual that Von Der Leyen apparently personally arranged the contract in talks with Pfizer boss Albert Bourla.

In May 2021, the European Commission struck a deal with vaccine manufacturer Biontech/Pfizer for the delivery of unto 1.8 billion doses for the years 2022 and 2023.

According to the Court of Auditors, on April 9, 2021, the Commission presented the conditions negotiated by the President and the Pfizer boss to the steering committee. After that, a call for tenders was initiated, based on the preliminary negotiations. The contract was signed on May 19th.

According to the Washington-based consumer organization SumOfUs, Von der Leyen agreed to a hefty price increase in her talks with Bourla. With the deal, the price per Biontech vaccine dose rose from EUR 15.50 to EUR 19.50. The EU potentially overpaid for its Covid vaccines, when a discount would have been possible given the order quantities.

Not the First Time

It is not the first time that Von Der Leyen is suspected of being involved in questionable procurement dealings. In 2019, when she was German Minister of Defense, she was suspected of having shown favouritism in the hiring of external consultants, dubbed the Berateraffäre (consultant scandal).

In 2018, leaked internal reports by Germany’s Federal Audit Office showed a series of irregularities in the hiring of external consultants by Von Der Leyen’s Defense Ministry.

According to the auditors, the ministry had spent up to €100 million in 2015 on external consultants, but only officially declared €2.2 million. A year later, it happens again, with the the ministry spending upto €150 million on advisers while declaring only €2.9 million.

As with the preliminary negotiations with Pfizer/Biontech, the problem highlighted by the auditors was not that contracts were awarded but the way in which the contracts were awarded.

Von Der Leyen admitted to the German parliament in November 2019 that there had been “mistakes” in the way external consultants were hired, stating “this never should have happened.

The German Federal Audit Office analyzed 56 out of 375 contracts awarded to consultants during the years 2015 and 2016, and found irregularities in the vast majority of the cases. According to the auditors, Von Der Leyen’s Defense Ministry failed to provide sufficient justification that external expertise was needed, and the hiring procedures in more than a third of the cases did not follow the prescribed rules for awarding contracts.

At the time as well, Von Der Leyen was asked to provide information in the context of the investigation by the German parliament, but her phone messages was apparently mysteriously erased.

It is alleged that the hiring of external consultants during the five and a half years that Von Der Leyen was German Defense Minister was based on the intention of increasing political influence on how the Defense Ministry worked internally.

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