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The Minister for Autonomy, Brigitte Bourguignon, announced on Saturday that the French State would file a complaint against Orpea, after an investigation report pointing to “serious malfunctions” in the group of private nursing homes. The State also intends to request the reimbursement of public funds that have been used irregularly.
“Serious malfunctions to the detriment of residents”. These are the conclusions drawn by the government from the investigation report resulting from the administrative inspection launched following the accusations in the book “Les Fossoyeurs” concerning the group of private nursing homes Orpea. The executive announced, Saturday, March 26, to take legal action and demand the reimbursement of undue endowments, but refuses to publish the investigation report.
“In view of serious malfunctions”, the State “files a complaint and seizes the public prosecutor”, on the basis of article 40 of the code of criminal procedure which obliges any authority to report criminal acts of which it becomes aware, said Saturday on France Inter the delegate minister in charge of the autonomy of the elderly, Brigitte Bourguignon.
And “we demand the restitution” of public grants allegedly diverted from their purposes, she added. These decisions follow the investigation report that the General Inspectorates of Finance (IGF) and Social Affairs (IGAS) have just transmitted to the government, which had seized them on 1er February to shed light on the facts denounced by journalist Victor Castanet in an explosive book, “Les Fossoyeurs”.
In view of the serious malfunctions noted by the IGAS and the IGF within the Orpéa group, on the human and organizational level, the State will file a complaint as soon as possible.pic.twitter.com/NkDTLuLkLF
— Brigitte Bourguignon (@BrigBourguignon) March 26, 2022
This report mentions “significant dysfunctions in the organization of the group, to the detriment of the care of the residents”, specifies the ministry in a press release.
Long awaited for weeks, this report will however not be made public, because it is covered by “business secrecy”, Brigitte Bourguignon’s cabinet told AFP.
On March 11, the Minister of Health Olivier Véran had however affirmed that he intended to publish part of this document, namely “all of it, with the exception of what is covered by business secrecy”.
The state is asking for “several million” euros
The sums at stake are of the order of “several million” euros, said the minister on Saturday morning. These include “the lack of accounting monitoring of surpluses on public funding”, according to the ministry. Orpea is suspected of having increased its profit by hiring fewer nursing staff than allowed by the public grants paid for this purpose, retaining the unspent funds.
The group is also suspected of “artificially increasing the cost of purchases financed by public money”, via a system of “end-of-year discounts” granted by its suppliers.
Beyond the accounting aspect, the administration inspectors also noted “fragilities in the support of residents”: the “satisfaction of (their) nutritional needs” leaves something to be desired, some staff “were not necessarily up to it” and residences accommodated too many residents in relation to their authorized capacity.
These conclusions and the seizure of justice by the State constitute a “fundamental step”, reacted Victor Castanet. However “the families of residents and the employees who participated in my investigation (…) do not understand the non-publication of this report,” the journalist told AFP.
Confidentiality of report challenged
“The argument of business secrecy has been opposed to me throughout my three years of investigations” and “again, this vague notion protects a private group to the detriment of the general interest”, he said. lamented. “What right do we have to hide information on questionable use of French money? It’s hard to hear!”, He added later on France Info.
For Laurent Garcia, a former Orpea employee who was one of the whistleblowers behind Victor Castanet’s investigation, “it’s absurd”. “Is it a desire to still protect Orpea?”.
This decision is “surprising, bordering on shocking”, added Senator (LR) Bernard Bonne, co-rapporteur of the Senate commission of inquiry into the Orpea scandal. “I’ve been laying siege to the ministry since the beginning of the week, but it still hasn’t been passed on to us,” he told AFP.
Brigitte Bourguignon must be heard Tuesday afternoon by this commission – before the leaders of Orpea Wednesday morning – and the question of the refusal to transmit the report “will be the first to be put to her”, he assured.
With AFP and Reuters