France: politicians and banks put on the spot

France: politicians and banks put on the spot

It often takes a full-blown scandal to spur politicians to act on concrete measures to fight corruption. In France last week, it was disclosed that , the former Minister of Budget, had hidden money in an undisclosed offshore account. French President François Hollande, who had made cleaning up politics a , responded by going on the offensive.

By 15 April members of the French government will have to make public asset declarations. MPs, local elected representatives and high-level officials will all have to do the same as soon as there is a new law in place. President Hollande also the establishment of an independent oversight body to review and keep a check on local and national politicians’ declarations.

What is missing from President Hollande's proposals, however, is an immediate curb on the number of official posts that politicians can hold. This should happen now, rather than in .

President Hollande also called on French banks to publish an annual list of all their subsidiaries around the world in an effort to bring greater transparency to their operations and thereby stem illicit financial flows. This is an essential step towards corporate transparency and a core recommendation in our report, Transparency in Corporate Reporting: Assessing the world's largest companies.

All these new measures are welcome. The next step is to turn them into laws and push for their swift implementation and enforcement.

Leaks led to action

Hollande's announcement follows the publication, last week, of information based on leaked data that showed how widespread the use of secrecy jurisdictions is. The , working with , published reports on records gathered from more than 120,000 companies registered in offshore locations famous for their secrecy – from the British Virgin Islands and the Caymans in the Caribbean, to the Cook Islands and Singapore in Asia. Mr. Cahuzac had deposited €600,000 in a Singapore bank, in a case revealed by .

This scandal also appears to have spurred the governments of France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom to announce plans , while Luxembourg said that it would end its .

Closing the gap

The requirement for French government members, their co-workers, MPs, local elected representatives and high-level officials to make public their asset declarations is – if a law is adopted by Parliament – an important step forward, one long overdue in French politics. The United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC), which has been ratified by 166 countries including France, requires a  of government officials. by Transparency International of France's institutions showed that the French parliament was rated the most vulnerable in the fight against corruption and recommended that the government publish politicians’ asset and interests declarations.

The French proposals are in line with seven key recommendations put forward by calling for greater transparency and accountability in French politics. President Hollande signed the Transparency International France pledge, committing to all of the recommendations, ahead of last year's election.

France is one of only two countries in Europe that has not made public the list of assets, incomes and interests of politicians, although the law mandating asset disclosure was passed in 1988. (The other is .)

Best practices for asset declarations

Research shows that an asset declaration open to public scrutiny is a way for citizens to ensure leaders do not abuse their power for personal gain (our definition of corruption). Asset declarations are a means to anchor the issue of ethics and integrity in the political classes and should be part of all . They are a way to ensure that people in power do not have conflicts of interest.

There are no international standards mandating how asset declarations are made and monitored. However, there are core principles that should form the foundation of any legal framework.

An asset declaration is a person's balance sheet and should cover assets (from all properties, valuables and financial portfolios) to liabilities (such as debts and mortgages), and all sources of income from directorships and investments to consulting contracts. It should also include gifts and sponsorship deals and any potential conflicts of interest such as unpaid employment contracts and participation in non-governmental organisations.

  • The leadership of the three branches of government – executive, legislative and judiciary – and senior career civil servants should be required to file asset declarations before and after taking office as well as periodically (annually or every two years) during office.
  • Ideally, the asset declaration records exact values, but some countries opt for ranges of value.
  • Asset declarations should be made publicly available.
  • The administration of an asset disclosure programme requires a monitoring and evaluation agency to collect and verify information and investigate, prosecute and sanction those who fail to comply.

 

For any press enquiries please contact [email protected]

Solicitude

Support Transparency International

Strengthening rule of law along the cocaine route

Transparency International has teamed up with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and INTERPOL, to implement the CRIMJUST Project, funded by the European Union. The project aims to strengthen criminal investigation and criminal justice cooperation along the cocaine route in Latin America, the Caribbean and West Africa.

Political asylum for ex-presidents: an easy way to impunity?

This year we celebrate the 70th anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration. Yet while we celebrate the universality of human rights, at times powerful individuals try to abuse the principles that underpin the international human rights framework. Two recent cases of two ex-presidents who have applied for political asylum to evade justice, and two countries who handled these requests in very different ways, highlight some of these abuses.

International Anti-Corruption Day 2018: The power of people’s pressure

Across the world, Transparency International chapters work hard to help the public become involved and engaged in the fight against corruption.

La Justicia española debe investigar el lavado de imagen de Azerbaiyán en Europa

Tres políticos españoles —Pedro Agramunt, Agustín Conde Bajén y Jordi Xuclá— se encuentran entre los delegados ante la Asamblea Parlamentaria del Consejo de Europa (APCE) sobre los que pesan sospechas de haberse beneficiado con la maniobra del “Laundromat”.

Clean up Spain – Justice for Azerbaijan’s reputation laundering in Europe

In Azerbaijan, critical voices are routinely suppressed. Meanwhile in Europe, politicians suspected of helping whitewash Azerbaijan’s record on human rights enjoy impunity. Join our campaign to urge authorities in Spain to investigate.

Everything you need to know about the 18th International Anti-Corruption Conference (#18IACC)

The #18IACC will take place from 22-24 October in Copenhagen, Denmark under the theme Together for Development, Peace and Security: Now is the Time to Act. Get the latest info and updates here!

Risky business: Europe’s golden visa programmes

Are EU Member States accepting too much risk in their investor migration schemes?

Why rather

Follow us on Why rather