UNDERSTAND EVERYTHING – The case of consulting firms parasitic on the election campaign of Emmanuel Macron

After the release of the Senate report on the use of consulting firms, which increased during Macron’s five-year term, the controversy intensified. The opposition condemns the state scandal.

The case of consulting firms undermines the election campaign of Emmanuel Macron. Two weeks after his nomination, and in the midst of the war in Ukraine, the Senate released a 385-page report on March 16, the fruit of four months of work, titled “The Growing Influence of Consulting Firms on Public Policy.” . . .

In this document, the commission of inquiry states that in 2021, state spending on consulting firms exceeded one billion euros. One name crystallizes the debate: McKinsey is accused of tax evasion thanks to tax optimization.

In an interview given to France 3 on Sunday, the President of the Republic denied “any schemes”. “There are public procurement rules. France is a country of law,” he said.

• What does the report say?

In this report, the Senate Committee of Inquiry denounces a “spreading phenomenon” that is inflating costs to public finances. For “challenging missions” or “management tasks”, the government turned to consulting firms from the beginning of the five-year term. A practice that accelerated during the health crisis.

The use of consultants has become a “reflex” “even when the state already has internal skills,” say Eliane Assassi, president of the communist group, and Arnaud Bazin, member of the Les Républicains group. According to senators, “dependency relationships” have even been created with consulting firms.

Also according to this report, in 2021, “the expenditures of the State Council in a broad sense exceeded one billion euros, including 893.9 million for ministries.” The use of consultants is not new. But it increased sharply during Macron’s five-year term as ministerial spending on consultations was capped at €379.1m in 2018.

According to the information provided by the ministries, the average cost per day for a consultant is 1,528 euros for the period 2018-2020.

• What is the use of the billions of euros invested by the government?

According to the Senate report, “private firms advise the government on a daily basis on its strategy, organization, and IT infrastructure.” Names mentioned include Accenture, Bain, Boston Consulting Group (BCG), Capgemini, Eurogroup, EY, Wavestone, PwC, Roland Berger and McKinsey.

The tasks entrusted to these consulting firms are varied. Support for prefectures to reach and disseminate confessions of faith in the 2022 elections (Semaphores firm, €290,785), Radar management (€82 million between 2017 and 2026 for Sopra Steria and EGIS), IT-level implementation work of the APL reform ( McKinsey, 3.88 million euros)…

During the crisis, the use of the recommendations accelerated, with “at least 68 orders placed for a total of 41.05 million euros”. Managing the supply of masks, the vaccination campaign, medical passports… Four firms are concentrating spending: McKinsey (€12.3m), Citwell (€6.8m), Accenture (€5.3m) and Capgemini (€4m).

• Case in point: Does McKinsey pay taxes in France?

Dubbed the “cornerstone of government vaccine policy,” McKinsey is suspected of not paying taxes in France for 10 years thanks to tax optimization when it collected millions of euros from the government for its various missions.

Senators filed a lawsuit in mid-March on “suspicion of perjury” against a McKinsey executive who said his firm paid corporation tax in our territory. The matter is under investigation.

The McKinsey firm confirmed on Saturday that it is complying with French tax rules, stating that one of its subsidiaries has been paying corporate tax for six years in the period in which the Senate accuses it of tax optimization.

• How is the government responding?

In early January, while a Senate panel was investigating the matter, Minister for Transformation and the Civil Service, Amelie de Montchalin, committed in a hearing to a reduction of at least 15% in external advisory spending for 2022, on the subjects of transformation and strategy (i.e. excluding IT spending).

“We get the impression that there are tricks, it’s not true,” Emmanuel Macron told France 3 on Sunday.

He claims that “not a single contract is signed in the republic without observing the rules of public procurement.” For him, when ministries are “working day and night”, “the fact that they turn to external service providers for help does not shock me.”

Last week, a government spokesman insisted there was no scandal. “It has been used for decades in all countries,” said Gabriel Attal at RMC. “The government has set a goal of cutting spending by 15% in 2022. I think we spent 40 times less than some of our neighbors like the UK on consulting firms.”

Two weeks before the first round of the presidential election, this case parasitizes the election campaign of Emmanuel Macron. Candidates from all sides of the political spectrum denounce the “state scandal”.

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