With Germany’s budget reeling from the effects of a stagnant economy, the country’s defense ministry has come under fire this week over revelations that it paid a Munich-based consulting firm €11.7 million in fees since 2001 in order to polish its public image. Opposition politicians have criticized the contracts, saying they were not part of a public bidding process. On Thursday, ministry officials conceded that the decision to award millions of euros in work to Roland Berger, one of Germany’s top business consultants, had been a personal one made by former Defense Minister Rudolf Scharping, a Social Democrat. For one three-month period, the ministry paid Berger €1 million euros, a figure the ministry defended, noting it was a "standard" payment for the consulting industry and only a fraction of the German army’s annual €165.6 million budget for consulting and other external services. However, Dietrich Austermann, the budget spokesman for the Christian Democratic Union, described the deal as "burning taxpayers' money." A contract for just three months intended to modernize the Bundeswehr is not only "meaningless, but also unimaginable," he said.