The use of consultants by Macron's governments came under the spotlight in March
Paris (AFP) - French prosecutors said Wednesday that they had searched the headquarters of President Emmanuel Macron’s Renaissance party in their investigation into the use of consulting firms by the government since 2017.
The Paris offices of US consulting giant McKinsey were also searched on Tuesday, the National Financial Prosecutors’ Office said, confirming a report in Le Parisien newspaper.
The use of consultants by Macron’s governments came under the spotlight in March after a French Senate inquiry concluded that public spending on them had more than doubled from 2018 to 2021, during Macron’s first term.
“It’s normal for the judiciary to investigate freely and independently to shed all the light on this subject,” a Renaissance spokesman, Loic Signor, told AFP.
He said the party remained at prosecutors’ disposal “to provide all useful information on the campaigns”.
McKinsey also confirmed the search of its offices, saying it was “cooperating fully with the authorities”.
Two probes have been underway since October, looking into possible false election campaign accounting, as well as possible favouritism and conspiracy.
Some McKinsey consultants are known to have worked as unpaid volunteers on Macron's victorious 2017 election campaign
Some McKinsey consultants are known to have worked as unpaid volunteers on Macron’s victorious 2017 election campaign and prosecutors are thought to be probing whether this entailed a hidden campaign expense.
They are also looking into whether the firm enjoyed special access and treatment afterwards when winning lucrative contracts with the government.
Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire acknowledged last month that there had been “excesses” with the use of consulting contracts in the past, but they had since been “corrected”.
- ‘McKinseygate’ -
Total outlays on consulting firms reached more than a billion euros ($1.1 billion) last year, according to the Senate panel report, a figure frequently cited by Macron’s opponents during his successful bid for a second term last April.
The panel also criticised fiscal strategies by McKinsey that it said allowed the US firm to pay no corporate taxes in France between 2011 and 2020.
That claim prompted the financial prosecutor’s office to open a separate preliminary investigation that led to a search of McKinsey’s Paris headquarters on May 24.
The prosecutors have not publicly identified the president or his campaign teams as the targets of the inquiry, of which Macron said in November that “I’m not scared of anything.”
But the use of expensive foreign firms for strategic advice, dubbed “McKinseygate” by national media, shocked many French voters even as Macron has repeatedly defended the contracts.
“When you want to go very quickly and very strongly with a policy, you need to make use of outside contractors occasionally,” he told reporters in March.
If prosecutors want to question Macron directly on the consulting claims, they may have to wait until he no longer enjoys presidential immunity in 2027, when he leaves office after the constitutional limit of two five-year terms.
France’s state auditor, the Cour des Comptes, has also found that several contracts for consulting firms during the Covid-19 crisis were awarded under “problematic” circumstances, Le Monde newspaper reported Monday, citing a confidential report.
France has strict rules on the financing of election campaigns and political parties, which have led to several convictions in recent decades.
Former president Nicolas Sarkozy received a one-year prison sentence in September 2021 for illegal financing of his 2012 re-election bid.
Judges concluded that Sarkozy spent nearly twice the legal limit on his doomed quest for a second term. He has appealed the ruling.