There must be effective sanctions in the event of breaches
First President of the Court of Auditors
Over time, generosity has grown a lot in our country, encouraged by fiscal provisions. The need to be vigilant about possible risks of misappropriation then led the legislator to request an intensification of controls. Since 1991, the Court of Auditors has had this competence, which places it at the border between the general interest and the private interest and gives it a mission of controlling public money, beyond its traditional role. control of public money.
In thirty years, we have drawn up 77 reports on associations of various sizes and statuses. And we are seeing a steady improvement: the large associations have become largely professionalized. Of course, there may still be problems, but these are in no way comparable to those revealed during the ARC (Association for Cancer Research) scandal.
Since 2009, the Court has thus issued only four declarations of non-compliance of expenditure in relation to the objectives of the calls for donations. Each time, the Court found that the donations were used more to finance the running costs of the association in question, rather than its social mission.
The Court’s controls are proving to be both dissuasive and enlightening. A deterrent for those who might have the wrong idea of misusing donations from the public and who know that they may be in our view. Enlightening, because our remarks contribute to the dissemination of good practices in associations and foundations, which leads them to improve their management and to respect even better the wishes of donors.
We have particular points of attention on possible conflicts of interest, on funds collected in France and spent on projects abroad, on sheltered foundations and endowment funds. The conference that we are organizing today with the associative world will precisely consider how we can continue to move forward on the path of transparency.
As much as I consider that we have arrived at a good balance, it is necessary to continue to improve things, by making more effective the consequences of our controls and possible sanctions when breaches are identified. This is a point that the legislator could take up, because it is for me the key concept: the associative sector rests on the confidence of the donors who grant it the means to act. The responsibility of the Court is to guarantee this confidence by providing ever more reliable and precise information to citizens, in particular to those who participate through their generosity – and they are more and more numerous – in the construction of a more united society.
Collected by Mathieu Castagnet
We must take into account the specificity of associations
President of France Générosités, an organization bringing together major associations calling on donations
For associations, control is by no means a bad word or something we dread. On the contrary, we consider it an absolute necessity. We are even arguably the only sector that does not want less control. We know that control is a necessary condition for trust and that trust is a prerequisite for giving. Without this guarantee offered to donors, there would be a considerable risk that trust would erode and donations would collapse.
When we look at the evolution of donations over several years, we see that they are progressing. It is proof that people have confidence. This trust must be carefully cultivated because associations would find it difficult to recover from a new major scandal. Of course, it is impossible to say that there will never be a black sheep, but we are increasing the tools to prevent this risk.
The sector itself has taken up the issue of control and has put in place procedures with labels such as Confidence or Ideas. Alongside these collective regulations, there are also new accounting obligations which make the accounts more transparent. In addition, there are many external controls that provide additional reassurance to donors. This goes through the auditors but also through the action of the Court of Auditors.
The Court plays an essential role in maintaining the bond of trust with public opinion. It is a completely respectable and efficient organization even if its controls are not always well received by the associations which undergo them. There is indeed sometimes a strong cultural distortion between magistrates accustomed to controlling public bodies and our associative world.
We must therefore be careful that the cumbersome and lengthy procedures do not weaken the functioning of the associations monitored. To improve things, we should perhaps imagine more flexible procedures, taking better account of the specific nature of our organizations. This seems to me all the more necessary as another priority should precisely be to extend control to smaller and less visible entities than the large associations. However, these do not have the same capacities to meet the requirements linked to in-depth controls such as those of the Court of Auditors.
In particular, I think that control should be extended to endowment funds, structures with much less constraints but an action very similar to the large foundations recognized as being of public utility. I am not saying that there is a particular problem with these growing endowments, but their growing number requires new attention, including from the regulatory bodies.
Collected by Mathieu Castagnet