The money was paid in compensation by two state secretaries at the ministry to engine manufacturer and supplier in the Eurofighter jet project, MTU.
The firm demanded the compensation after Germany initially said it would buy 180 jets but dropped the number to 140.
They transferred the money in late December 2013, without telling outgoing defence minister Thomas de Maizière, nor incoming minister Ursula von der Leyen about it, Spiegel Online news site reported.
Ministry payments over €25 million have to be authorized by the parliament's budget committee. Those responsible claimed that they did not do this because parliament was not in session and that everyone was too busy sorting out the new coalition.
Tobias Lindner,the Green party leader on the parliamentary budgetary committee, told Spiegel that his party believes the payment was “in contempt of parliament”. The defence ministry had, he said, once again not learned from earlier arms scandals such as the Eurohawk drone project.
Why the payment was not brought up in coalition debates is unclear. It appears, however, that they wanted to get the deal rushed through before the end of the year, Spiegel said.
Von der Leyen is said to be deeply unimpressed with the news of the payment – which the army also knew about and had a hand in settling. She has invited those involved to discuss the matter on Wednesday evening.
Inititally MTU claimed that scaling down the Eurofighter project would cost them €340 million. Bosses asked for €100 million from the defence ministry, but accepted €55 million instead.