The government is reducing its use of consulting firms

The government is reducing its use of consulting firms

Is the golden age of private consultants in the state coming to an end? After two years of controversy and criticism, the government has begun a serious rationalization of its use of consulting firms, according to a report from the General Inspectorate of Finance (IGF) made public at the beginning of March.

This document, relayed on Thursday 9 March by Politico And The letter a, does not comment on the content and quality of the advisory services – leaving that to the Court of Auditors, which is currently working on the subject. It limits itself to evaluating the implementation of the good practices enacted on January 19, 2022 by former Prime Minister Jean Castex in a circular published in the midst of the McKinsey scandal.

A year later, the objective of reducing government consulting expenditure by 15% has been largely exceeded, since it has decreased by 35% between 2021 (271 million euros) and 2022 (177 million). Almost all the ministries played the game, with three exceptions: only the Quai d’Orsay, the Ministry of Labor and the Ministry of Higher Education and Research continued to increase their spending.

A drop that comes after a record year

Cautious, however, the IGF recalls the fragility of this decline, which is partly explained by economic events. On the one hand, the 2022 electoral deadlines have slowed down the activity of the ministries, reducing the need for consulting services. On the other hand, the administrations lost their privileged means of ordering consultancy missions in July with the expiry of the framework contract for the interministerial directorate of public transformation (DITP), which was not renewed until January. 2023.

The rapporteurs also invite us to put the decline that occurred last year into perspective, recalling the stratospheric levels reached by consulting expenditure – it had more than tripled between the start of Macron’s five-year term, in 2017, and the year 2021, marked by a record number of missions linked in particular to the pandemic. This is why the IGF recommends that the government continue its efforts, by further reducing the bill by 15% in 2023. When questioned, the office of the Minister for Public Transformation, Stanislas Guerini, let it be known that “the continuation of the reduction in consultancy expenditure is currently the subject of interministerial discussions to set a coherent course”.

The success of this effort will largely depend on the effectiveness of the new steering tools installed in the ministries after the Castex circular, such as the “commitment committee”. However, for the moment, the effectiveness of this internal jury, responsible for checking on a case-by-case basis the relevance of recourse to external consultants with regard to the skills available internally, varies significantly according to the administrations.

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