Peter Altmaier and Olaf Scholz see no mistakes in the Wirecard scandal, but need reform

Minister of Economy Peter Altmaier (CDU) does not see any errors in the supervision of the auditors when dealing with the Wirecard scandal. Altmaier said Wednesday night after one Special meeting of the finance committee, as far as he can understand, the statutory auditors’ supervisory body took the necessary and correct steps very early and at all times. The relevant questions from MPs had been answered. “I don’t think there is any clarity in this direction in any way.”

The SPD had accused Altmaier of having contributed too little to the clarification so far; he was responsible for the supervision of the auditors. The Ministry of Economic Affairs has always pointed out that the statutory auditor supervisory body is an independent professional supervision of auditor regulations for the auditors and the requirements for the examinations are the responsibility of the SPD-led Ministry of Justice.

A large auditing firm issued an unqualified audit certificate for the Wirecard annual financial statements from 2009 to 2018. Manipulations were not recognized. The now insolvent payment service provider Wirecard granted air bookings of 1.9 billion euros in June.

Altmaier called the events around Wirecard “depressing” and “worrying”. It is the federal government’s joint responsibility to draw the necessary conclusions. “But I also pointed out that it is important to clarify the processes so that we do not take any consequences before we know exactly what the problems are, who is responsible for what wrongdoing.”

SPD finance ministers had previously had a similar experience Olaf Scholz in the finance committee said: “What had to be done has been done,” said the SPD politician, according to Reuters news agency. After his interview lasting several hours, Scholz then emphasized his willingness to reform: “That is my great concern: if the current excitement has subsided, if this topic is no longer so much in focus that everyone no longer has the strength and courage to do it now is important for these reforms, “said the SPD politician. “If we want to overcome resistance, then we can only do it now and not in six, seven, eight or nine months.” It was “a good, necessary discussion with many details”.

Opposition reserves the committee of inquiry

The demand for a parliamentary committee of inquiry remains on the table in the Wirecard scandal. The FDP chairman in the finance committee, Florian Toncar, said after hearing Scholz that he had “answered many questions”, but his statements were “inconsistent”. It is not logical that, according to Scholz, the financial regulator took the problems seriously, but did not act.

With a view to a committee of inquiry, Toncar said after the special meeting of the finance committee: “I would consider this to be the appropriate instrument to create transparency”, also because a committee of inquiry has the right to inspect files. The FDP is now offering the Left Party and the Green Party talks to enforce such a committee, “not as an instrument against a single minister, but as an educational contribution”

The green finance expert Danyal Bayaz also took a mixed look at the hearing of Scholz and Altmaier. “Some questions have been answered, some have arisen,” he said after the meeting. “Today Scholz could not put aside the allegation that the political early warning system did not work for him,” he criticized the finance minister.

Therefore, in his view, “the probability that an investigative committee will come today is greater than that it will not come,” Bayaz said. Initially, however, other special meetings of the Finance Committee remained “the most effective way to get information quickly”. The Greens had also given the government a deadline of August 10 to answer further questions.

The Left Party and AfD had already committed to calling for a committee of inquiry before the meeting, and Union politicians also signaled openness. Wirecard filed for bankruptcy at the end of June. Scholz is under pressure because he received information about problems with the financial service provider at an early stage without the financial supervisory authority Bafin intervening.

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