Defense, Security and Migration: When European Countries Delegate “Essential Functions” to the Private Sector

PARIS: “The McKinsey case appears to be just the tip of the iceberg”: in a report published on Tuesday, European unions of government officials expressed concern about European countries’ increasing resort to the private sector to secure “essential jobs”. from management.

Outsourcing, advisory services, and public-private partnerships: “Today, many essential functions of public administration are performed by private service providers and consultants,” says the European Federation of Public Service Unions (EPSU), which represents eight million agents across the old continent.

This is the case for example in Greece, where the government entrusted G4S’s company with “security and monitoring of six immigration detention centers” in 2013 and 2016.

In the UK, the Ministry of Defense “spends around £20 billion annually on private providers” and the Department of Justice “spends more than £5 billion on privately run probation services and prisons”, unions calculate.

The EU also points to the European Commission’s growing role for consultants, “who are becoming increasingly influential actors in public administration”.

According to figures released in December 2020, “public sector regulatory advisory accounts for 14% of the total turnover of regulatory advisory work in Europe. The numbers vary from 31% in Greece, 22% in Denmark and the United Kingdom, and 17% in Spain. To (.. .]9% in Germany and France.”

A European comparison partially undercuts criticism in March in a parliamentary report in France in which two senators described the French state’s use of consulting firms as a “sprawling phenomenon”.

“The McKinsey+ case (named after a French government service provider, editor’s note) is just the tip of the iceberg,” Judge Jean Willem Gudrian, General Secretary of EPSU.

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He notes that “European governments are increasingly turning to well-paid consultants.” “The frequency and acceleration of this phenomenon is staggering and affects the transparency, accountability, and cost of public services.”

The European Commission has not escaped from the unions, which it accuses of “sharply increasing their advisory expenditures”.

“The four largest companies (PwC, KPMG, Deloitte and EY) alone raised more than €462 million between 2016 and 2019,” EPSU details based on statistics compiled by the Euractiv media network.

Gaps

The European Court of Auditors, in a report published at the end of June, estimated the Commission’s spending at around €1 billion with “external advisors” specializing in “advice, study, evaluation and research”.

The Foundation then identified “significant deficiencies in the framework established by the European Executive to regulate the use of external consultants.

In addition to outsourcing and consulting, EPSU is concerned about public-private partnerships (PPPs) and their cost.

The union cites the example of the €2.3 billion PPP deal signed in 2012 to build the new Paris court, “although a comparison with the private sector solution showed that it was not the cheapest option”.

At the end of 2017, the French Court of Auditors had already criticized this contract “guided by short-term budget considerations” and involving “annual rents averaging 86 million euros”, up to 2044.

Whatever the type of privatization, European trade unions consider it detrimental to public officials, particularly with regard to job security, working time or remuneration.

But they point out that the “dynamism is reversible.”

In the Netherlands, since 2016, the administration is gradually reintroducing cleaning services, and the same process began at the end of 2021 for the security services.

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In the conclusion of the report, the EU Budget recommends more transparency about the budget and the tasks assigned to the private sector, and management work that is not done along the lines of companies.

“Outsourcing key functions is tantamount to handing over the keys to departments for private consulting without asking questions,” warns Jean Willem Gudrian. “The authorities must abandon such practices – otherwise they can well finance their destruction.”

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