* Finance Minister won't sack bankers, accountants
* Schaeuble admits 'annoying mistake' made
* Opposition accuses government of cover-up
By Erik Kirschbaum
BERLIN, Nov 2 The German government has no plans
to sack the bankers or accountants who made a 55-billion euro
($75 million) bookkeeping blunder that exposed it to ridicule
across Europe, the finance minister said on Wednesday.
Wolfgang Schaeuble said it was "an extremely annoying
mistake" for the nationalised mortgage bank Hypo Real Estate
(HRE) and the PwC accountancy firm to have let such an error
slip through undetected.
The Berlin government has been scathing about Greece's
bookkeeping practices during the euro zone crisis.
"I don't believe in looking for scapegoats," Schaeuble told
a news conference after summoning executives from HRE and the
accountancy firm to his office.
"Everyone promised improvements."
The blunder briefly raised Germany's total debt by more than
55 billion euros, and Schaeuble and the government were
lampooned by cartoonists and pilloried in editorials.
The minister conceded the blunder did shake public
confidence but called it a "communications problem" which never
really put Germany's fiscal interests at risk.
Schaeuble said the Bundesbank (German central bank) would
take a deeper look into the accounting mistakes made.
"It was all about statistical problems and different methods
of accounting," Schaeuble said. "It's an extremely annoying
mistake. The sum involved of 55 billion euros could contribute
to deeply shaking the public's faith."
The German public has long grumbled about the growing size
of the euro zone rescue measures, especially after state
spending cuts over the last decade led to deep cuts in Germany's
comparatively comfortable levels of state support.
In an era of austerity when their government has squabbled
for two years over a mooted 6-billion euro tax cut, Germans
found it hard to understand how their government was now
unexpectedly 55 billion euros better off.
"Schaeuble hasn't shed any light on the matter," said Thomas
Opperman, finance policy expert of the opposition Social
Democrats (SPD). "This was just a continuation of the cover-up.
It's not on that someone makes a 55-billion euro mistake and no
one is held responsible for it."
Schaeuble's conservative Christian Democrats (CDU) often
campaign on the slogan that the SPD cannot be trusted with
"Schaeuble has a lot of explaining to do," Oppermann said.
The HRE-linked "bad bank" FMS Wertmanagement was
set up after HRE was nationalised in 2009, so that HRE could
transfer the worst non-performing assets to an off-balance sheet
bank guaranteed by the German state.
As a result of the corrected debt, Germany now expects its
ratio of debt to gross domestic product to be 81.1 percent for
2011, 2.6 percentage points less than previously forecast.
($1 = 0.725 Euros)
(Reporting by Erik Kirschbaum; Editing by Robert Woodward)