Restoring the cathedral : a need for transparency
The Court of Auditors today submitted its report on the conservation and restoration of Notre-Dame de Paris Cathedral. This analysis document reviews the state of the monument, the mobilisation the day after the fire, the amount collected and the public institution.
The report mentions in particular the total amount of the fundraising launched on the evening of the fire by the French President, which led to the collection of more than 825 million euros from more than 300,000 donors (individuals, major donors or companies) across 140 countries. At the end of 2019, more than 640 million euros were still at the pledge stage with the four collecting bodies (National Monuments Centre, France Foundation, Heritage Foundation and Notre Dame Foundation).
“These sums are considerable. Only international climatic events can raise comparable sums. What’s striking is that each week, the NDF still continues to receive a few donations, for the most part quite small, while the emotion is now far behind us. This means that trust is being shown over time” , recalls Christophe Rousselot.“And obviously, that puts an obligation on us, as on the first day.” »
A demand for transparency to be respected in the use of funds
Among the points raised is the use of donations to finance the operating expenses of the public institution responsible for the restoration of Notre-Dame. The law adopted on 16 July 2019, intended to organise the national fundraising, specifies: the funds collected “are exclusively intended to finance conservation and restoration work on Notre-Dame de Paris Cathedral and its state-owned furniture, as well as the initial and continuing training of professionals with specific skills required for this work”.
These funds are primarily allocated to emergency works for the consolidation of the cathedral, for an amount of 165 million euros. The Court of Auditors notes that the current operating expenses of the public institution (salaries of forty people, hire of the building used, communication, etc.) of the order of 5 million euros per year, are also financed by donations.
“It is completely legitimate that a certain number of reconstruction expenses and those which concern personnel should be covered by the fundraising”, explains Pierre Moscovici, First President of the Court of Accounts.“But it would be relevant to distinguish what falls under the reconstruction and the renovation site from what falls under the operation of the public institution – which also plays an extraordinarily useful role – even though the sums involved are not considerable – 5 million euros compared to the 825 million euros in donations already collected or pledged. It seems to us that this debudgeting, the fact that it’s not the State budget that supports the operation of the public institution, is not optimal. It would seem to us to be good public management for the State to support it with an annual grant from the Ministry of Culture. This is the recommendation we make.”
“It is perfectly normal that part of the donations should finance specialised trades for such a complicated project, whether stonemasons or very high-level architects”, adds Christophe Rousselot.“We have a dialogue with the public institution on other aspects within the monitoring committee. I’m sure that the Ministry of Culture will find a solution, such as for the amount of rent paid by the public institution, for example, which it will bear.” »
Request for an administrative investigation
In its report, the Court of Auditors points to “insufficient management of fire risks due to a complex division of responsibilities between the State, national monuments and the clergy” before the fire of 15 April 2019.
“Now”, points out Pierre Moscovici, “more than a year-and-a-half later, we suggest launching an administrative investigation to untangle the web of administrative responsibilities for managing the cathedral and its safety before the fire. This will allow us both to know what happened at Notre-Dame, but also ensure that in future, it doesn’t happen again in one of the 86 other French cathedrals. This investigation has been delayed long enough, and must be launched as soon as possible.” »
Consequences of the fire and restoration of the entire cathedral: two related but distinct subjects
“The donations are used to finance the consequences of the fire, but the total restoration of the cathedral, which is owned by the State, and managed by the Ministry of Culture, is another subject. Before the fire, there was an envelope of 150 million euros for restoration. How much will the State spend on the project as a whole, regardless of the fire? This is the major subject we have started to discuss”, announces Christophe Rousselot.
As far as he is concerned, the management of the 60,000 donations received since 17 April 2019 is taken care of by the Paris Cathedral Fund. The costs incurred (the hiring of an employee, the training of two volunteers, the technical costs of computer maintenance and monitoring the fundraising, the sending of tax receipts) must not exceed the threshold of 3%, voted by the Board of Directors of the Notre Dame Foundation when the Fund was created.
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© Photo Laurence Faure / Diocèse de Paris