After the political controversies, the controversy over consulting firms took a legal turn. The National Financial Prosecutor’s Office (PNF) announced on Wednesday April 6 the opening of a preliminary investigation for aggravated money laundering of tax evasion following the Senate report on the use of private consulting firms by public administrations in France. This report, detailed in the investigation of the World published on March 17, describes “the growing influence of private consulting firms on public policy”.
The investigation, launched after “verifications” of the PNF, was entrusted to the Financial Judicial Investigation Service (SEJF).
Management of the health crisis, reform of the APL, organization of conferences: the Senate commission of inquiry into the use by the State of consulting firms denounces a “sprawling phenomenon”at a growing cost to public finances. “It is a political will, a choice of the government to call on consulting firms instead of the administration”lamented the rapporteur of the commission Eliane Assassi (CRCE group with a communist majority). “This is a deep intrusion of the private sector into the public sphere”she said again.
The expertise of the firms often turns out to be expensive, since “according to the information provided by the ministries, the average cost of a day of (work of a) consultant amounts to 1,528 euros including tax for the period 2018-2020”. So that in 2021, the consulting expenses of the ministries reached 893.9 million euros. A marked increase in the amount during Emmanuel Macron’s five-year term: in 2018, it was limited to 379.1 million euros.
In response to fears of a dependence of the public authorities on certain consulting firms, the Minister for Transformation and the Public Service Amélie de Montchalin recalled that “no consulting firm has decided on any reform and the decision is always up to the State”. “We did not divest ourselves of our responsibilities”, did she say.
The practice is according to her “widespread”, “usual” and ” useful “ in the “most cases”.