As France raced to finish a fancy blueprint in December for vaccinating its inhabitants, the federal government quietly issued thousands and thousands of euros in contracts to the consulting big McKinsey & Firm.
The contracts, which weren’t initially disclosed to the general public, have been meant to assist make sure that vaccines would make their method rapidly to distribution factors for nursing houses, well being care suppliers and the aged. Extra contracts have been swiftly awarded to different consultants, together with Accenture and two companies primarily based in France.
However inside weeks, the nation’s vaccination marketing campaign was being derided for being far too sluggish. In early January, France had inoculated solely “a number of thousand individuals,” in response to the well being minister, in contrast with 230,000 in Germany and greater than 110,000 in Italy.
Because the consulting contracts got here to gentle, McKinsey has change into a magnet for controversy in a rustic the place an elite civil service is anticipated to handle public affairs, and private-sector involvement is seen with wariness.
The contracts — totaling 11 million euros ($13.three million), of which €four million went to McKinsey — have been confirmed by a parliamentary committee this month. The federal government of President Emmanuel Macron, which has been beneath fireplace for months for stumbling in its dealing with of the pandemic, was pressured to confess it had turned to consulting companies.
On Wednesday, 18 lawmakers from the conservative occasion Les Républicains despatched a letter to Mr. Macron searching for additional solutions about why McKinsey was employed.
The letter cited McKinsey’s latest settlement to pay almost $600 million to the authorities in the US to settle claims that it contributed to “the devastating opioid disaster” as a priority for its involvement in French well being issues.
A spokesman for McKinsey declined to remark.
Mr. Macron, a former funding banker, got here into workplace promising to function considered one of Europe’s largest governments with better effectivity. Its response to the coronavirus pandemic has been criticized inside France for being the alternative, with repeated lockdowns, provide shortages and a failure final summer time to place in place a essential triptych of testing, tracing and isolation.
Nobody is accusing McKinsey of wrongdoing. The corporate has rolled out its pandemic consulting providers in different international locations, together with Britain and the US. However to critics of the French authorities’s technique, the efficiency raises questions over the worth that consultants add to the method.
Frédéric Pierru, a sociologist and researcher on the French Nationwide Heart for Scientific Analysis who has studied the impression of consulting companies, mentioned that the businesses tended to import working fashions utilized in different industries that weren’t at all times efficient in public well being.
“It’s too early to inform if McKinsey and others are including worth on this marketing campaign,” he mentioned. “However I believe we’ll by no means actually know.”