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The use of consulting firms was deemed “problematic” from 2021 by the Court of Auditors – RT in French

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Revealed by Le Monde, a report dated at the end of 2021 shows that the magistrates of rue Cambon had alerted the government to abuses linked to the use of consulting services, in particular in the context of the health crisis.

Until then confidential, the report of the Court of Auditors unveiled by The world this December 12 adds to the long series of revelations about consulting firms whose services have cost taxpayers dearly. According to the magistrates, several consulting contracts were thus concluded by the State under “problematic” conditions during the health crisis linked to Covid-19.

The “sprawling phenomenon” described by the Senate commission of inquiry in March 2022 had thus been the subject of an alert from the Court of Auditors in December 2021, the latter having gone through a series of contracts signed with Accenture, Citwell, JLL, Roland Berger, and the now famous McKinsey.

If the report hardly brings new elements on the explosion of the expenses related to these services, “it is the organization and the content of these missions which question”, raises the world, since they have, according to the authors of the report, “often exceeded the strict framework of the contribution of expertise absent in the public sector”, an argument which has been used on several occasions by the authorities to justify these delegations of missions.

Consultants employed for routine assignments

McKinsey, alongside Accenture, was for example called upon as part of a call for tenders launched in 2017 by the Interministerial Directorate for Public Transformation (DITP) to help develop the vaccination strategy.

According to the Court, it was thus “considered that the vaccination strategy could be linked to public transformation”, a connection which “appears largely artificial”, since the vaccination strategy “is a public policy” in its own right, and not a matter of “change management” within the state apparatus. The two firms were in fact to carry out projects aimed at improving the effectiveness of public action and reducing its cost, criteria which the mission on the vaccination strategy did not meet.

In addition, the firm Citwell, a logistics specialist which received 2.3 million euros for eight missions carried out in 2020, “organized the flows” (of masks, among others), within the framework of a contract awarded without respecting the normally compulsory advertising and competition, which the government justified by the “imperious urgency” of the situation. However, this firm then received responsibility for an “ever wider” perimeter, noted the Court of Auditors, since it was entrusted with the flow of drugs used in the intensive care units and even the logistics of the campaign. vaccination.

Additionally, some of Citwell’s consultants have worked directly within the Department of Health, providing “routine execution of missions”: three to four full-time employees therefore took on the tasks of civil servants.

“Abnormal” delegations

In the same way, the institution responsible for the proper use of public funds considered “abnormal” the delegation to the Roland Berger firm of missions falling within the remit of the administration, “even though it [le ministère de la Santé] has a powerful internal inspection body [l’Inspection générale des affaires sociales], whose members have all the skills required” to respond to an exceptional situation. Roland Berger thus worked, directly within the General Directorate of Health (DGS), as “drafter of numerous arbitration notes and presentations addressed to the cabinet of the minister on subjects falling within the remit of the DGS”.

The Court of Auditors therefore recommends “strictly limiting the use of firms to technical missions for which the central administration departments of the Ministry of Health do not have the required skills internally”. The new framework for the use of consulting services, applicable from 2023, now provides that firms must either provide skills that the State does not have “internally”, or respond to a need or a specific workload.

As reminded The worldthe Minister of Health at the time, Olivier Véran, had assured during his hearing in the Senate in February 2022 that “there is no [avait] there was no ambiguity in the nature of the contracts that were signed or in their performance”, said ministry not wishing to react to these new daily revelations. While acknowledging “abuses” in this recourse to external consultants on November 27, the Minister of the Economy Bruno Le Maire had affirmed that “this drift has been corrected”, in particular by a circular from Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne asking the government reduce solicitations from these firms by 15%.

The Court of Auditors is currently examining the use of consulting firms by the State taken as a whole and plans to publish a new report in the first half of 2023.

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