“There are a whole series of areas in which the use of consulting firms by the State is useful and necessary, when the competence does not exist. Otherwise, there are anomalies and inappropriate use of consulting firms. » It is while being careful not to condemn the recourse by the State to private consulting firms that Pierre Moscovici, first president of the Court of Auditors, detailed on Monday July 10 the highly anticipated report of the court on this burning subject.
Focusing only on “intellectual services”, thus leaving aside the numerous missions which concern the IT field, the Court of Auditors pleads for the State to find a “better controlled” use of service providers. The report is concerned about numerous shortcomings in the budgetary monitoring of services, the way in which management is ensured, but also the way in which contracts are concluded. The Court therefore calls for clarification of the use of consultants, which has become an “easy solution” for an administration with limited resources and deadlines. Thus, “consulting expenditure tripled between 2017 and 2021”, reaching 233.6 million euros. A subject of public interest therefore, but which represents barely 0.04% of state expenditure in 2022, according to the Court.
Situations of “dependence” and “loss of powers” from the State
Among the “inappropriate” uses of outsourcing, the Court notably accuses the State of letting certain private service providers fulfill missions relating to the “core business of the administration”, even “intervening in the decision-making process”. “It is abnormal that the cabinets replace the administration” insists Pierre Moscovici, who indicates that this situation has been “noted in all sectors” by the rapporteurs. The first president of the Court of Auditors indicates that this then creates situations of “duplication”, but also of “dependence and loss of competence of the administration”.
“The outsourcing of part of the tasks of the administrations does not call for objection in principle”, qualify the financial magistrates. Consulting firms must thus find “a more adjusted and better controlled place among the various instruments of the administrations to carry out their missions”.
The report by the Elders of rue Cambon generally confirms, in more civilized terms, the conclusions of the senatorial report published in March 2022. A few weeks before the first round of the presidential election, this vitriolic report qualified the administration’s recourse to consulting firms of “sprawling phenomenon”. The subject had embarrassed the teams of Emmanuel Macron, singled out for his supposed proximity to big names in consulting such as the American firm McKinsey.
“Improvements” that still need to be “completed”
A January 2022 government circular brought “significant improvements” to the doctrine of recourse to consulting firms, notes the Court’s report, which however indicates that it was taken “under the pressure of current events” and must imperative to be “completed”.
The government has meanwhile claimed to have reduced its spending on strategy and organization consulting by 35% between 2021 and 2022, which the report confirms. It also capped the amount of certain contracts at two million euros and limited the number of contracts awarded consecutively to the same firm. At the same time, a bill to better regulate the State’s use of consultants was widely adopted in the Senate in October. It must now be examined in the National Assembly.