Between Orpea and the State, a financial showdown with an uncertain outcome

The hour of accountability has come for Orpea. The European giant of commercial private retirement homes has been ordered to reimburse 55.8 million euros by the French State, which accuses it of “diversion” of public funds. The world had access to the content of the notification sent to the company on July 29 by the National Solidarity Fund for Autonomy (CNSA), responsible for managing the Social Security credits allocated to the old age sector. The CNSA denounces the “irregularities in the management of public grants (…) diverted from their purpose with regard to the texts in force”.

“Orpea will reimburse the sums whose allocation was inadequate”, reacted the company in a press release on August 2. But she mentions “differences of appreciation” on the amounts demanded. And undertakes to bring “its responses to the CNSA within the time limit”. The group has one month to make its position known. The financial standoff is therefore engaged. But the balance of power is certainly not to the advantage of the state.

“We grant ourselves the right to request the return of public grants that have not been used towards residents as they should be”, had announced, on March 26, Brigitte Bourguignon. The one who was then minister delegate in charge of autonomy had displayed her determination to « taper fort » after the damning report of the General Inspectorates of Finance (IGF) and Social Affairs (IGAS), charged by the executive to investigate the revelations of journalist Victor Castanet, author of the book The Gravediggers (Fayard, 400 pages, 22.90 euros), published in January. The IGAS-IGF mission which audited Orpea’s accounts between 2017 and 2020 validated its demonstration. Mr. Castanet had uncovered the group’s schemes to optimize the use of public money in order to increase profits at the expense of the means allocated to residents.

Excerpts from the book “The Gravediggers”: Article reserved for our subscribers “Already, there was this terrible smell of piss, from the entrance”: extracts from “Gravediggers”, an investigation into the business of old age

Change of strategy

Orpea defended itself en bloc for having set up a “hypothetical system aimed at optimizing public funds”. But the new management has changed its strategy. The managing director who took office in July, Laurent Guillot, knows that restoring the group’s image – and stock market prices, which have been in freefall for six months – requires making amends for certain ” practice “.

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Asked by The world, Orpea said it was ready to repay part of the debt from the outset. This is the case for an amount which amounts to 5.7 million euros in the mail of the CNSA. This total corresponds to the discounts granted by suppliers from 2017 to 2020 on the purchase of materials (incontinence pads, care products), paid for with public grants. “We will return the sums”, indicates the new staff.

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