Macron’s re-election campaign troubled by ‘McKinsey affair’


French President Emmanuel Macron and centrist candidate for re-election during a campaign visit, in Fouras, western France, Thursday March 31, 2022. The first round of the presidential election in France takes place on the 10 April, with a presidential run-off on April 24 if no candidate wins outright. (AP Photo/Jeremiah Gonzalez)


As French President Emmanuel Macron prepares to hold his first major rally in his re-election race on Saturday, his campaign has hit a snag.

It has been dubbed the “McKinsey Affair”, after an American consulting firm hired to advise the French government on its COVID-19 vaccination campaign and other policies. A new French Senate report questions the government’s use of private consultants and accuses McKinsey of tax evasion. The problem is mobilizing Macron’s rivals and harassing him during campaign stops before the April 10 first round of voting.

His supporters hope he can revive his campaign and drown out his critics at Saturday’s rally in a huge arena west of Paris. Macron, a centrist who has been at the forefront of diplomatic efforts to end the war in Ukraine, has a comfortable lead in the polls so far over far-right leader Marine Le Pen and others. challengers.

But the word “McKinsey” becomes a rallying cry for those trying to overthrow him. Critics describe the government’s €1 billion in spending on consultancies like McKinsey last year as a kind of privatization and Americanization of French politics, and demand more transparency.

The French Senate, where the opposition Conservatives hold the majority, published a report last month investigating the government’s use of private consultancies. The report found that state spending on such contracts has doubled in the past three years despite mixed results, and warned they could create conflicts of interest. Dozens of private firms are involved in the consultancy business, including such giants as Irish multinational Accenture and French group Capgemini.

More damningly, the report says McKinsey hasn’t paid corporate income tax in France since at least 2011, instead using a “tax optimisation” scheme through its parent company based in the UK. Delaware.

McKinsey issued a statement saying he “respects the French tax rules that apply to him” and defending his work in France, but did not elaborate.

McKinsey notably advised the French government on its COVID vaccination campaign, which started hesitantly but eventually became one of the most comprehensive in the world. Outside consultants have also advised the Macron government on housing reform, asylum policy and other measures.

The Senate report found that these companies earn less revenue in France than in Britain or Germany, and noted that spending on outside consultants was higher under former conservative President Nicolas Sarkozy than under Macron.

Budget Minister Olivier Dussopt said state money spent on McKinsey was about 0.3% of what the government spent on civil servant salaries last year, and that McKinsey did not. won only a tiny fraction. He accused his campaign rivals of inflating the case to increase their own audience.

“We have nothing to hide,” said Amélie Montchalin, the government’s Minister of Public Service.

The case still hurts Macron.

A former investment banker once accused of being “president of the rich”, Macron saw his ratings rise when his government spent heavily to protect workers and businesses at the start of the pandemic, promising to do “everything must” to soften the blow. But his rivals say the McKinsey case rekindles concerns that Macron and his government are beholden to private interests and out of touch with the concerns of ordinary voters.

Everywhere Macron goes now, he is asked about it.

“The campaign should be about purchasing power, how to fix security issues, how to end the war (in Ukraine),” he told voters on Thursday. “Don’t make a nonsense of it.”

On a talk show last Sunday, he said defensively, “If there’s evidence of manipulation, let them take it to court.”

A woman who lost her father to COVID-19 filed a lawsuit on Friday accusing McKinsey and other consultancies of misusing public money when they were hired to advise the government on health supplies. masks and vaccines. Julie Grasset now runs a support group for people who have lost loved ones in the pandemic.

“It’s a serious problem. We are talking about public health,” Grasset told The Associated Press.

The financial prosecutor’s office made no comment. It could take weeks for prosecutors to decide whether to take up the case, one of many complaints filed by Grasset and others about the government’s handling of the pandemic.

Lynn A. Saleh