Ten days before the first round of presidential elections, the government is increasingly embroiled in accusations surrounding its massive use of consulting firms during this five-year term. This criticism comes after the publication of a senatorial report on March 17, which in particular condemned the weight these consultants have taken in decision-making support to large public administrations.
Senators also accused the prestigious US consulting firm, McKinsey & Company, of failing to pay corporation tax for ten years, between 2011 and 2020. In an attempt to extinguish the fire that threatens Emmanuel Macron’s campaign, the director sent budget and civil service ministers Olivier Dussopt and Amélie de Montchalin, who held a press conference from Bercy on Wednesday, March 30th.
“Government assumes to rely on reinforcements”especially defended Mme de Montchalin, while confirming “do not underestimate” the controversy that has been growing since the publication of the Senate report. But she assures him, “Decisions are never made by consultants. Decisions in our country are made by legitimate politicians, who are accountable to Parliament, accountable to the French ”. “Has the government delegated crisis management or delegated the definition of its public policies to consultants? Again, the answer is no.she assured.
“Reinforcements” during the health crisis
Mr. Dussopt claimed that the Covid-19 epidemic had justified this use of consulting firms. “The health crisis has brutally mobilized all administrations. It required the use of reinforcements for the ministries. This explains some of these benefits.he explained before continuing: “There is another reason, which is structural, and that is that our government, even during the crisis, has never stopped reforming and modernizing, including in these moments of crisis, in these moments of confinement.”
While the Senate report mentions a figure of one billion euros spent in 2021 for all consulting firms, Mr. Dussopt Wednesday night, that “Consultancy costs reached 893.9 million euros” for the state during this year. The difference, according to the minister, is due to the Senate’s integration of the costs associated with consulting firms requested by state operators, bodies separate from the administration but under direct control of the latter (universities, employment, Météo-France, CNRS or Inserm are among them, and dozens of others) . This envelope of 893 million euros benefited, according to Mr. Dussopt, “To more than 2,000 consulting firms employing staff in France. Some are well-known French companies like Capgemini, like Eurogroup, like Sopra Steria, and are among the companies that we have contacted with others, including those that have been mentioned in the various reports. »
Ministers then returned to the tax evasion charges against the McKinsey firm. Mr. Dussopt announced that his ministry services “has launched a control operation on McKinsey’s tax situation by the end of 2021.” In defense, McKinsey first claimed to have paid “422 million euros in taxes and social security contributions”, by maintaining the confusion between corporation tax and social security contributions paid on the remuneration of its employees. One week later, McKinsey explained that one of its subsidiaries had actually paid corporation tax for six years. Due to the lack of transparency in its accounts, it is impossible to independently verify the claims of the company.
During this press conference, Mr Dussopt made a point of clarifying it “Do not pay corporation tax” is not necessarily related “to conceal or knowingly deceive”. “You do not pay corporation tax when you do not make a profit”he explains, specifying that the accounts filed by McKinsey “has been systematic with deficits”. McKinsey could then have needed, according to Mr. Dussopt ”A transfer price between the formation of a group and a taxable subsidiary. It is, among other things, this hypothesis that is the subject of the work of our tax authorities ”.
“We have no lessons to receive”
Earlier in the day, it was Economy, Finance and Recovery Minister Bruno Le Maire who tried to defend the government’s action. “We have no lesson to learn from anyone in the fight against tax optimization”he declared on Europe 1. For M.Le Maire, the McKinsey case “the proof of the enormous disorder of the opposition (…) that elevates things that do not exist “. Emmanuel Macron “has for five years fought tax evasion, fought tax optimization, created taxation of digital giants”, stated the Minister. The President too “raised the minimum tax on the largest companies to 15%”he added.
“I understand that Emmanuel Macron is annoyed”assessed Bruno Le Maire, two days after a trip in which the president-elect had extensively sought to justify the state’s use of consulting firms, described as “widespread phenomenon” of the Senate. “We’ve been saying a lot of nonsense the last few days”had slammed the head of state before urging not to “not to confuse everything”. The day before, on France 3, Emmanuel Macron had also been annoyed by questions on the subject: “We have the impression that there are tricks, it is not true”he said in particular.