The Court of Auditors must become as efficient as the British NAO, otherwise we will always have shoveled reports without any effect.
By Nicolas Lecaussin.
An article from Iref-Europe
Like every year, the report of the Court of Auditors made the front page of the media for a few days. And as almost every year, we learn that the deficit and the debt increase while other countries are doing much better (half of the countries of the euro area show a structural balance of their finances). So, France is champion of compulsory levies and public spending but also ranks among the "best" in terms of deficit and debt. Worse, no sign of improvement is visible and no real reform is envisaged by the government.
Similarly, the Court criticizes the management of Radio France, is concerned about the "reform" of Intercités trains and denounces many privileges granted to EDF agents. She has already covered all these topics in the past. The situation of EDF and the very costly benefits of the agents and the expenses of their works council (the famous CCAS which has a budget of more than 470 million euros) have already been the subject of multiple recommendations from the magistrates of the Court. In the report that has just been published, we find, concerning EDF:
– The Energy Advantage, ie the free subscription to EDF, a preferential rate for electricity (4% of the basic rate) and exemption from taxes. This applies to the principal residence, the second home, or even an occasional residence, even for retired agents … "The cost to the business results both from the shortfall in the subscription and fee amounts and from the obligation to pay the taxes in place of the employees. and retired beneficiaries of the benefit. " Or 295 million in 2017.
– The special pension scheme. Its rules converge towards those of the general system. But it is still possible to retire at age 57, with 17 years of active service. The pension is calculated at a rate of 75% applying to the average of the last six months, including the thirteenth month. EDF pays 800 million a year through, among other things, a tax paid by consumers on their bills.
– The housing stock. 14,408 housing units were available to employees in 2017. This represented a charge of 295 million euros for EDF, an increase of 11% compared to 2011.
– Family policy. Generous bonuses are paid for family events; for example, a month and a half salary for the birth of a first child. In all, this type of aid reached 68.1 million euros in 2017.
The themes of the Court's reports regularly come back
All this is well known for a long time. The IREF has written it several times and we have also shown that the EDF bill is a list of taxes, most of which is used to finance the agents' privileges. We can also wonder why the yellow vests do not seize it to protest against these benefits financed with public money.
It is fine for the Court to come back to these facts, but it would be even better if its recommendations were followed up. IREF has already analyzed the work of the Court. In a study published a few years ago, our Institute made this assessment: out of 73 reports issued by the Court of Auditors over the 2007-2012 period, about 35 partially followed the recommendations and 31 fell into oblivion. without any recommendation being followed. Only 7 were followed in full.
Similarly, no data exists on the savings achieved through the work of the Court of Auditors.
Value for money for the British NAO
In comparison, the work of the UK NAO (National Audit Office) has saved taxpayers nearly £ 5 billion over the same period. For each euro spent, the NAO optimizes the public expenditure of 16 euros. A priority is clearly evident in its missions: the search for savings and efficiency. Its goal is to save an average of £ 10 for every pound spent.
This body reports to the UK Parliament and sends its reports to the Public Accounts Committeeparliamentary committee of about fifteen deputies who then produces his own report. Then the government has the obligation to pronounce on the recommendations of this report within 4 months. NAO employees are auditors (the President worked at Price Waterhouse) and not lawyers.
It is not civil servants who can return to the administration, as is the case at the Court of Auditors. Audits performed by the NAO are audits of performance and efficiency, not legality. The administration or public service audited is obliged to accept or reject the concrete and quantified recommendations made to it. Refused recommendations give rise to a public hearing in which the directors concerned must justify their decision.
Unlike directors of French administrations, British directors are responsible for the use of public money in Parliament. In 2017-2018, according to the annual report, the NAO certified 370 accounts, published 65 reports and 32 "guides" on a wide range of public expenditure issues, supported 51 Public Accounts Committee evidence-gathering sessions (ACANs). ) and achieves its efficiency goals. The recommendations resulted in verified savings of £ 741 million (€ 846 million) in 2017-2018.
The Court must become as efficient as the British NAO, otherwise we will always have shoveled reports without any effect. To entrust auditors to real auditors rather than civil servants, to make this Court accountable to Parliament, would already be progress. The reform of the French state also involves the transformation of the Court of Auditors.
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