France hired an agent to help with the epidemic. Then the questions came.

PARIS – As France raced to prepare a complex blueprint in December to vaccinate its population against coronaviruses, the government quietly released millions of euros in consultation with the giant McKinsey & Company.

The contract, which was not initially disclosed to the public, was intended to help ensure that millions of small vaccine vials would quickly make their way to nursing homes, health care providers and delivery points for the elderly. Additional contracts were hastily awarded to other consultants, including Accenture and two French-based firms.

But within weeks, France’s vaccination campaign was being evacuated for being too slow. In early January, France vaccinated only “several thousand people” according to the Minister of Health, compared to 230,000 in Germany and 110,000 in Italy.

As the consulting contract began to come to light, McKinsey has become a magnet For a dispute in a country where an elite civil service is expected to manage public affairs, and private sector involvement is seen with the war.

The contract – totaling 11 million euros ($ 13.3 million), of which € 4 million went to McKinsey – was Confirmed Last week by a parliamentary committee. President Emanuel Macron’s government, which had been under fire for months for stumbling into dealing with the epidemic, was forced to admit that it had turned to outside consulting firms to manage the response.

On Wednesday, 18 MPs from the conservative Les Republicans Party called Letter President Macron sought further responses by hiring McKinsey, an adviser to corporations and governments around the world, to support the French agencies charged to roll out the vaccine.

Letter quoted McKinsey’s recent agreement Paying nearly $ 600 million to authorities in the United States to claim that it contributed to the “catastrophic opioid crisis” for its involvement in French health affairs.

A McKinsey spokesman declined to comment.

France is hardly the only European country to involve the private sector in public affairs. Governments from Britain to Greece have tapped advisory firms for years to help streamline large bureaucracies. As governments have waned, many have become more dependent on outside contractors for outside public services.

A former investment banker, Mr. Macron, came into office promising to operate one of Europe’s largest governments with greater efficiency. Its response to coronovirus has been criticized within France, in contrast, with repeated lockdowns, Supply shortage And a failure in a summer to put in place a Critical tryptic Testing, tracing and isolation. The missteps provided McKinsey and other advisors a new opportunity to step up.

No one is accusing McKinsey of wrongdoing. The company has strategically rolled out its epidemic counseling services to a group of other countries around the world, including the UK, where it is safe 1.1 million pounds in contract (about $ 1.5 million) To advise the Kovid-19 task force and determine the testing capacity of the National Health Service. In the United States, the firm has been awarded $ 100 million in Kovid-19 contract By federal, state and city agencies.

In France, health agencies contracted with McKinsey and other consultants to help implement their vaccine rollout in mid-November 28, after a deal with pharmaceutical companies for millions of vaccine doses for member countries.

Health Minister Olivier Wren defended the decision after the contracts, by first report Political trickster, Came to light in January.

“This is not the first time that we have called private partners,” he told the French Senate. He said McKinsey was helping with “the practical, operational and logistics challenges of our vaccine strategy”, but had no role in policy decisions.

Much of McKinsey’s work in France is with corporate clients. Nevertheless, McKinsey maintains a close relationship with a succession of French governments, and some officials have previously worked for McKinsey.

France promoted the use of its advisors in recent years, creating dedicated budgets that agencies could tap to call outside advisors as needed. In 2018, McKinsey was selected as one of several go-in consultants available for hire by French agencies Contracted 100 million euros. This meant that any agency could select one firm without looking for bids at work.

The December contract, and another in mid-January, totaling € 4 million, were from that pooled agreement. It called for McKinsey to help define the delivery routes for Pfizer and Modern vaccines, which should be kept cold at minus 80 degrees Celsius during transportation and storage. The company will benchmark France’s performance against other European countries. McKinsey experts will also help coordinate the vaccination task force of officers from multiple agencies, with some decision chains of up to 50 agencies.

Global information technology consultants to roll out campaign monitoring systems, other contracts provided for Accenture, and two subsidiaries, Citwell and JLL, to help with “logistical support and vaccine delivery”.

The government’s strategy focused on delivering vaccines to 1,000 distribution points in France, of which doses would be sent in supercular trucks to nursing homes, clinics and local mayor’s offices. Local delivery was seen as a way to dispel warnings of up to 40 percent about being vaccinated.

In Germany, the program was simple: officials decided to administer the vaccine in 400 regional centers.

By the first week of January, France had a dose of one million vaccines, but the delay in including them in people’s weapons was becoming public knowledge. The campaign continued as Pfizer and Modern temporarily slowed down excess supplies.

Speed ​​recently raised. More than three million out of France’s 67 million population have now received at least one dose of the vaccine, and more than 923,000 have been fully vaccinated. But with 4.7 doses administered per 100 people, According to a New York Times database, France still supersedes neighbors such as Germany and Italy.

For critics of the government’s strategy, performance questions the value that advisors add to the process.

Frédéric Pieru, a sociologist and researcher at the French National Center for Scientific Research, has worked in French hospitals and regional health agencies for 15 years and studied the impact of consulting firms called on to improve efficiency. He said that companies imported operating models used in other industries that were not always effective in public health.

“Later, the government does not go back to evaluate whether the consultants worked well or not,” Mr Pieru said. “If McKinsey and others are adding value to this campaign, it is too early to tell,” he said. “But I think we’ll never really know.”

Lawmakers are pushing for more information.

Les Repebliance deputy for the national health budget and Veronique Lauvegie, who co-ordinates the French Parliament, told the Finance Committee that a number of additional private sector contracts to deal with the epidemic have been awarded by other agencies, of which the amounts are not public.

While the cost may be lower than the billions being spent to support France’s economy, “what bothers me is that the government is not transparent,” Mrs Louvegie said in an interview.

He said the major concern is whether the government’s dependence on advisors is increasing, displacing the expertise provided by civil servants.

“I am not necessarily surprised that the government is calling on consultants,” Mrs Luwagi said. “But in France, it is a testament to the state of crisis and loss of expertise in health administration that is managing the crisis,” she said.

“If a country’s health authority needs to run after the support of advisors,” he said, “we need to ask why.”

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