“We control the risks”… The organizing committee wants to be reassured about the risk of budget drift

The tone is intended to be polite and respectful, but the balance of power is really taking shape between the Organizing Committee of the Olympic Games (Cojo) and the Court of Auditors. This Tuesday, the institution responsible for verifying the use of public funds released the first report on the preparation of the Paris Games of 2024. It is not yet time for the alarm signal, but certain files that want can’t wait let’s stop the bill. from the explosion along the house, summarized the first president of the institution Pierre Moscovici in the morning, before presenting this report to the Parliament. To which Cojo responded that it knew exactly what it was doing.

The Court of Auditors wants to go fast…

Started in 2019, the work of the Court of Auditors intends to respond to the need “for transparency and exemplarity” demanded according to it by citizens, fueled by the excesses observed in the last editions of the Games. Cost control is a key topic, where the success of the event also depends on the sports performance itself. On this subject, the report does not take into account the increase of 400 million euros (including 111 from the State and local authorities) confirmed in December by the board of directors of Paris 2024, which brings the Cojo budget from 3.98 to 4.38 billion. euros (and that of the Games at just over 8 billion). This will be discussed in a second note, scheduled for next June.

For now, there is enough to do with this report. The main recommendation is to accelerate the signing of agreements for the use of Olympic venues. Only 11 out of 80 were in the final tally in November. “Our message is very clear about this: we have to do it. There is no time to lose”, insisted Pierre Moscovici, who warned about “a proven operational and financial risk” if everything is not fixed by the beginning of 2023. In general, the former minister of the Economy emphasizes one point: everything that can be expected must be expected, because the more urgent it is necessary to complete everything before the opening of the Games (July 26, 2024 ), greater are the risks of slipping.

… Paris 2024 delays

Cojo didn’t wait for the Court of Auditors to find out, of course. But there is no rush, he said. “We do not agree with this idea of ​​proven operational and financial risk, says Fabrice Lacroix, the administrative and financial director of Paris 2024. We have set a timetable, what is important for us is that these contracts are signed. working on the sites, so a few weeks or months before the Olympics. »

Organizers want to take the time to negotiate with each service provider, precisely to control costs. “In the contracts that we have already signed, the price fell by 40 to 60% between the first proposal and finally accepted”, describes the manager. However, a little pressure shots never hurt. “Everyone knows that we should not drag out, assured Moscovici. But between awareness and decision-making, there may be differences, reluctance. That is why we insist. Because it is all playful, we are not time is running out. »

The President of the Court of Auditors, Pierre Moscovici, here in October 2022. – SIPA

The observation also applies to security, a recurring topic of debate since the idea of ​​an open-air opening ceremony was raised – then confirmed last year. The risk of not meeting the demand for private security guards (at least 20,000) is high. Not enough candidates and time to train them. It will therefore be necessary to call in reinforcements from the internal security forces, managed by the Ministry of the Interior and the prefects (not all of whom will be mobilized as life outside Paris will continue during the Games).

“All this should be financed by Cojo, and not by the taxpayer, recalled the president of the institution. And we are not sure if the planned envelope will be sufficient if the deficit of private agents is large. Hence the recommendation to count this funding in a general plan for security by June at the latest.

Not a source of concern, the organizing committee replied. “If we have to mobilize public officials, our duty will be to take care of their residence, overtime, possible untaken leave, etc. This cost will be lower than the agents coming from private security”, assured Fabrice Lacroix, remembering that the budget dedicated to this area has increased from 200 to 320 million euros.

The “contingency reserve” source of divergence

Another fear is about transportation, “whose good organization is an important condition for the success of the Olympic Games”, recalls the Court of Auditors. There are risks of delays at some key points, such as metro line 14, the Pleyel urban crossing at Saint-Denis, Porte Maillot and Gare du Nord. “The final transport plan must now be completed, advises Pierre Moscovici. It is not too late, but there is no room for maneuvering. Here again, the Court of Auditors emphasizes the risk, if everything is not in order combined, of increasing tension in the existing network, and ultimately annoying the population, who will suffer more at the Games than anything else.

For all this, in any case it is inconceivable that the State has put more hand in the pocket than what it had already planned. The commitment of public money has already been established at 2.3 billion euros (1.1 for the State, 1.2 for local authorities), an amount that could reach almost 3 billion at the end with spending on health or transport that is not yet known, estimated by the Court of Auditors. To cover any additional costs, it will be necessary to dip into the “contingency reserve”.

“We don’t want to get in the way of going around in circles”

Originally granted 315 million euros, it is only 200 million after the December budget revision. This apparently angered the Court of Auditors, who always wanted to be cautious. “We asked for it to be a sanctuary, or to rebuild it if it was started, said Nacer Meddah, who is next to Pierre Moscovici as the president of the third chamber of the Court. It is out of the question from our point of view that the guarantee of the State is demanded. “There it is again, none of Cojo’s plans, which displays its confidence.

“The Court considers that the maximum amount should be kept as late as possible, but that is not how it works. In reality, these are almost certain costs that we do not yet know the details of, explained Fabrice Lacroix. Gradually, we know them better, so we use this reserve. This provision will be completely or almost completely exhausted by the end of the Games. And the remaining 200 million will be enough to cover possible risks in between of today and the delivery of the Games. “We control the risks,” he said.

The Court of Auditors can sleep soundly, at least that’s the message being sent here. “We don’t want to be obstacles going around in circles, simply highlighting points of vigilance to ensure the success of an event to which we are deeply attached”, concludes Pierre Moscovici. See you in June for the second round.

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