the Elysée is slow to make public the contracts of Emmanuel Macron’s first five-year term
Since the controversy over the massive use of consulting firms broke out, Emmanuel Macron and the government have continued to promise transparency. “We have the impression that there are tricks, it’s not true”, assured the president on March 27. However, many gray areas remain on the links that unite the State to large consulting companies, such as McKinsey, Accenture, BCG or Capgemini. Requested since February, the Elysée has still not communicated to the World the list and content of the advisory missions carried out by these firms with the Presidency of the Republic during the first term of Emmanuel Macron.
Faced with the silence opposed by the President’s cabinet to his requests, The world referred the matter to the Commission for Access to Administrative Documents (CADA), responsible for ensuring compliance with the right of citizens to access public documents, enshrined in the law of 1978. On April 21, 2022, the CADA issued a favorable opinion on the communication by the Elysée of the documents requested by our journalists, which would have enabled the World to analyze the work of consultants for the Presidency of the Republic.
What is the CADA procedure?
Since the law of July 17, 1978, every citizen has a right of access to administrative documents produced by the State – unless they are covered by a secrecy regime recognized by law (commercial secrecy, defense secrecy , medical secrecy, respect for private life, etc.). All you have to do is send a request to the administration concerned which produced the document: ministry, agency, prefecture, etc.
In case of refusal, or lack of response after one month, the citizen can lodge an appeal with the Commission for Access to Administrative Documents (CADA). This independent body then conducts an investigation, by questioning the institution, to determine whether the document is communicable, and in what form.
If the CADA gives a favorable opinion, the institution is invited to communicate the document to the requesting citizen. But the commission cannot compel her to do so.
If the institution still refuses to comply with the decision, the citizen must therefore apply to the administrative court to obtain a judicial decision compelling the institution to communicate the document. If certain passages of the document are covered by secrecy, the institution is authorized to redact them.
“A disproportionate workload”
In its opinion, the CADA recalls that the elements relating to public contracts awarded by an institution such as the Elysée are supposed to be accessible to the public – on condition that the mentions reflecting the commercial strategy of the consulting firms, likely to undermine the trade secret.
The committee also considers that the Presidency of the Republic should communicate to the World them “deliverables”these documents produced by the consultants during their missions (presentations, slides, reports, etc.), as well as the correspondence exchanged with the collaborators of the presidency during the duration of their intervention – crucial elements for understanding the nature and the scope of the role of consultants to public institutions.
Mr. Macron’s cabinet had described this request as abusive, arguing that the redaction of commercial mentions on these documents would lead to the Elysée “a disproportionate workload” in view of its means, likely to “disrupt the proper functioning of its services”. The CADA challenged this argument, pointing out that “the volume of documents requested cannot, by itself, legally justify a refusal of communication”and judging the request reasonable with regard to the means of the Elysée.
Asked before the publication of this article, the Elysée finally came out of its silence, ensuring that the processing of the request was ” In progress “and that the documents would be transmitted ” as soon as possible “ – by justifying this waiting time by the important work of redacting the documents to be transmitted.
Mystery on the consulting contracts of the Elysée
In a report published in February, a senatorial commission of inquiry shed light on the state’s “sprawling” use of consulting firms, by quantifying the contracts awarded by the government in 2021 at more than one billion euros. This commission made public a list of nearly a thousand consulting assignments carried out by several dozen firms with the main ministries during the previous five-year term, but the Elysée was not included in the scope examined by the senators.
We therefore still do not know the number and nature of the missions carried out by consulting firms with the Presidency of the Republic during Mr. Macron’s first term. Only six of them are known to date, thanks to revelations from the press or the Senate.
The missions of consulting firms for the Elysée known to date (2017-2022)
- Capgemini’s support for the reorganization of the Elysée mail service, revealed by Mediapartthe cost of which is unknown;
- the contribution pro bono (volunteer) from McKinsey in the organization of the Tech for Good summits, which saw the big digital bosses parade at the Elysée;
- support pro bono from Roland Berger to the Scale-up Europe initiative, a vast consultation of European tech personalities launched by Emmanuel Macron;
- the participation pro bono from BCG to the organization of the Choose France summits, a gathering of entrepreneurs gathered in Versailles to promote the attractiveness of France;
- the Eurogroup audit on the reorganization of the Elysée departments;
- the mission of the cabinet Plein Sens on the reorganization of the diplomatic unit of the Elysée.
The Elysée is not the only institution dragging its feet to be transparent about its use of consultants. Almost all the ministries contacted by The world have not yet sent the documents related to the consultancy assignments from which they benefited during the 2017-2022 five-year term, despite requests dating back to February, and a series of favorable opinions issued by the CADA in May and June 2022. some are asking for time to carry out the work of concealing the mentions covered by commercial secrecy, others oppose silence to the multiple requests from the World.
For “put an end to the opacity of consulting services”, the two senators who led the commission of inquiry, Eliane Assassi (Communist Party) and Arnaud Bazin (Les Républicains), proposed a law in June aimed at forcing the State to publish each year the list of missions entrusted to private practices. The government has so far not bounced back on the proposal, contenting itself with a few cosmetic changes to the rules applicable to a fraction of these missions, covered by the new framework agreement negotiated by the interministerial directorate for public transformation. “Since the end of the commission of inquiry, it is the return to opacityannoyed a senatorial source. Despite the government’s announcements, we have no visibility on the contracts in progress, their amount or their results. »
Our selection of articles on consulting firms
They are invisible, but omnipresent… What is the real influence of private consultants in the conduct of state affairs? This is the burning question raised at the heart of the presidential campaign by the Senate commission on the influence of consulting firms on public policy, which delivered its report on March 17. In parallel, The world conducted its own investigation, based on testimonies, open sources and requests for access to documents, to try to measure the impact of these firms on Emmanuel Macron’s five-year term.
Find all our articles on consulting firms in our dedicated section.
Update, September 5, 2022: addition of Eurogroup and full sense missions to the list of consulting firms that intervened at the Elysée Palace between 2017 and 2022, which now number six.