“Whatever it costs” at the time of reckoning

Paris. Three billion euros, the equivalent of an entire year of the Culture budget: the Court of Auditors (at the request of the Senate) could not overlook such expenditure. The magistrates placed their calculator on the 3.1 billion euros of exceptional credits granted to culture and cultural industries between 2017 and 2023. These credits are broken down into two large groups: 1.6 billion euros under the recovery plan and 1.5 billion euros which, for simplification here, we will link to the future investment programs (PIA).

Despite its amount, the recovery plan attracts less criticism than the PIAs. The magistrates admit that these credits decided in the summer of 2020, in the middle of the Covid period, served both to protect the cultural sector affected by confinements and to support it in emerging from the health crisis. While regretting that part of this money was not used to transform certain mechanisms of the ministry, as was the initial intention.

However, they are shooting arrows against two public art commissions. The first, decided by Emmanuel Macron, called “New Worlds” and endowed with 30 million euros, was transformed into a call for expressions of interest (AMI). This change in legal framework is not anecdotal since in an AMI the works remain the property of the artists. The lack of transparency on the figures suggests that a lot of money was given to the two production agencies (Eva Albarran & Co and Vivanto) and to the structure that managed the program, and not as much as would have been necessary for the artists themselves. All this for little media coverage. The magistrates are so annoyed by the lack of evaluation of this program led by Bernard Blistène, the former director of the National Museum of Modern Art, that they demand that the planned new order not be launched before a complete audit of “ New worlds.” The second arrow concerns the Large Photojournalism Order, managed by the BNF. They are surprised by the importance of the management costs (€360,000 on a budget of €4.40 million), corresponding to the orders placed with the 200 photographers and the monitoring of these.

Time-consuming cultural PIAs

The cultural aspect of future investment programs has attracted more of their attention. As their name suggests, PIAs are multi-year innovation financing tools. Since the first PIA in 2010, with 35 billion euros, three PIAs have been launched for a total of 77 billion euros. The last PIA (PIA 4) dates from 2020 and was integrated into a larger program called “France 2030”. These programs are decided directly by the Prime Minister's services and the funds are managed mainly by the Caisse des Dépôts et Consignations and BPIFrance, the public investment bank. They present the defect, according to the Court, of not involving the ministries concerned, in this case the Ministry of Culture.

In the amount of 508 million euros, the cultural component of PIA 1 and 3 (there was no PIA 2 culture) was implemented from 2017. Acting partly as a fund A classic investment, the system distributes millions without much visibility in return. The example best known to the public is that of the “Immersive Grand Palais”, praised by magistrates (but have they really been there?). But for an immersive GP (which received €2.30 million), how many unknown start-ups or business model uncertain ? Thus, five of the fourteen companies in which the Caisse des Dépôts took shares as part of one of the calls for expressions of interest went bankrupt just a few years after their creation. A company in which the Fund has invested 3 million euros no longer shows any sign of life. In another fund, the Court is surprised that a lot of money has been invested in several companies which produce podcasts while the market for paid podcasts has never taken off in the face of an overabundant free offer (Radio France). The preceding remarks mainly concern PIA 1. For PIA 3, it is simpler, the State has decreed that the majority of its envelope (€190 million) would go to finance the work of the Grand Palais and the Château de Villers -Cotterêts (Aisne), thus distorting the spirit of the PIAs supposed to support digital innovation.

The construction of the culture section of PIA 4 does not facilitate its readability either. PIA 4 announced in September 2020 was merged some time later into the major post-Covid recovery program “France 2030” (which has nothing to do with the recovery plan). PIA 4 “culture” corresponds to the “strategy for accelerating cultural and creative industries (with €400 million)”, supplemented by the culture component of France 2030 with 600 million euros. The report does not go into detail about funds disbursed recently. He notes, however, that the management of France 2030 is just as time-consuming and that, decided in the midst of a health crisis, a number of funding sources were selected without sufficient prior studies, or for the benefit of experienced operators capable of responding very quickly, such as the National Center of cinema and animated images which obtained 350 million euros for the creation of new film studios.

This report is surprising by the little accounting information disclosed on these billions spent, invested and sometimes wasted, while in other documents the Court is much more forthcoming – see the INA expense reports. In fact, the magistrates of Rue Cambon are better equipped to audit a specific operator or the large traditional budgetary masses than to control a multitude of financing.

Similar Posts