Did you say lampstand? The question persists when reading, dryly, the 33 pages of the letter sent on July 18 by prefect Christian Gravel in response to the two severe reports published at the beginning of June and beginning of July by the General Inspection of Administration (IGA) on management of the Marianne fund. Questioned by the IGA for “serious deficiencies” in the launch and management of this fund to fight separatism, the secretary general of the CIPDR (Interministerial Committee for the Prevention of Delinquency and Radicalization) immediately resigned after almost three years in office. His detailed response was published this weekend on the website of the Ministry of the Interior, which specifies that it is a “personal” approach.
The first striking element is that the prefect Christian Gravel does not hesitate to point out that the two IGA reports pay considerable attention to the action of the CIPDR in this matter and little, if not almost none, to that of the former Minister Delegate for Citizenship, Marlène Schiappa, and her cabinet. “It is surprising to note that the action of the cabinet and the delegate minister at the time was not analyzed in detail even though the initiative, the formalization of the call for projects and the choice of the winners were up to the latter,” writes Mr. Gravel soberly.
To say the least surprising, in fact, to the extent that it was Marlène Schiappa who decided to launch this fund with 2.5 million euros in April 2021, six months after the assassination of Samuel Paty. Even more so when we discover that, contrary to her assertions – she had certified that she had withdrawn from the process after the launch of the fund – the former minister did intervene personally to have the SOS association removed from the list of candidates Racism, with which she had had trouble. An arbitration that his chief of staff finally recognized before the Senate commission of inquiry and which appears in black and white in the second July report of the IGA, but not in the first.
The IGA also had to amend this first report from June to highlight, not without a certain irony, the “changing” versions over the weeks of the members of the cabinet of Ms. Schiappa, ousted from the government during the July reshuffle.
At the heart of this disastrous issue in terms of exemplary political action and management of public funds, the association led by Mohamed Sifaoui, the USEPPM (Union of Physical Education and Military Preparation Societies), set up cause for having benefited from a large subsidy for a very questionable final production. Pinned down by the IGA for a call for projects deemed “neither transparent nor fair”, the prefect Christian Gravel retorts that he has in no way intervened to favor this association since it is, he explains, the cabinet from Ms. Schiappa who would have insisted to him that the USEPPM was indeed part of the list of candidates for the Marianne fund.
As proof, he published several emails sent to him by Ms. Schiappa's office aimed at ensuring that the USEPPM appeared on the list of applicants. “The cabinet had expressly requested that this association be able to compete,” he wrote, supporting emails. Moreover, we learn, it was Mohamed Sifaoui who, after an exchange with Ms. Schiappa, would have informed Christian Gravel during a telephone call in March 2021 of the upcoming creation of an ambitious project aimed at helping associations fighting against separatism. The IGA report thus mentions “six meetings” between Mr. Sifaoui and the cabinet of Minister Delegate Marlène Schiappa before the launch of the fund.
Also accused of negligence in monitoring the work of the selected associations, the prefect also responds. Certainly, he concedes, the CIPDR team was seriously lacking in resources and was subject to a heavy workload and intense political pressure in a context of the reinforced fight against separatism after the attack against Samuel Paty. Pressure further increased by Marlène Schiappa's desire to accelerate the timetable: while the CIPDR had proposed that the candidate selection process be spread over three months, the minister's office imposed that it be restricted to five weeks , allowing Ms. Schiappa to communicate at the beginning of June, and not at the end of July in the midst of summer torpor. “Of course, the work could have been done faster but it was done,” he repeats. Never, insists Prefect Gravel, was he guilty of carelessness despite these “tight deadlines”, which had surprised the IGA, to say the least. “Serious preparatory work has been carried out,” he affirms, certifying that the project presented by USEPPM was “completely solid”.
He notes in passing that the CIPDR, at the start of the process, recommended halving the amount of the subsidy requested by the association, which, being greedy, demanded no less than 600,000 euros. As soon as he had doubts about the USEPPM, he claimed to have personally contacted Mr. Sifaoui to obtain explanations. And failing to obtain them, refused him, with his deputy, the payment of a second tranche of subsidy to the tune of 87,000 euros, before taking legal action under article 40. “The administration did not never failed to carry out the necessary checks and has never shown the slightest complacency with this association,” he asserts.
This Friday, September 8, in a speech to the prefects, Prime Minister Élisabeth Borne urged them not to hesitate to “innovate” and to continue the fight for the defense of secularism and the fight against propaganda step by step. jihadist, when the government decreed the ban on the abaya in public schools. It remains to be seen whether this message will be heard by state servants and senior officials in view of the misadventures of the protagonists of the Marianne fund. A case in which the National Financial Prosecutor's Office (PNF) opened a judicial investigation for suspicion of embezzlement of public funds.