State. Statement of assets, criminal record, taxes… how to check future ministers?

Before entering the Elisabeth Borne government, you must show your credentials when it comes to a nightclub. But the bouncer here is called the High Authority for Transparency of Public Life (HATVP). What does it control? Can a minister revoke his appointment?

Initially, the Cahuzac scandal

In December 2012, Jérôme Cahuzac was the Minister Delegate for the Budget when it was revealed that Mediapart had undeclared funds in its accounts abroad. He denies it, but left the government on March 19, 2013, before accepting the facts before the investigating judges took over the case.

Jérôme Cahuzac is accused of laundering money from tax evasion. He was tried in 2016, then appealed, and was sentenced to two years in prison in 2018 – a €300,000 fine and a five-year ban since he started wearing an electronic wristband at his home in Corsica.

What is HATVP?

Bribery, corruption, lobbying, extortion… The Cahuzac incident resonates. And it doesn’t improve the image of the political class much than it does. The urgency of the government, President François Hollande and the National Assembly should therefore not be tainted by (too much) issue.

There is a Financial Transparency Commission in Political Life, but it needs to be “updated” and given more authority and visibility.

For this reason, the High Authority for Transparency in Public Life (HATVP) was established in December 2013. This independent administration oversees the assets and interests of the majority of public officials and may be consulted for any questions regarding conflicts, interests and ethics.

It controls about 9,000 people: members of the government and Parliament, major locally elected officials, collaborators of the President, ministers and heads of parliament, as well as leaders of major public companies.

Can verifications take place before the appointment of the government?

Yes. Edouard Philippe was the first to ask HATVP to confirm the status of members of the government before their appointment in May 2017.

As a matter of fact, according to the law dated September 15, 2017, the Prime Minister is the President who can request the information regarding the HATVP from the HATVP before the ministers and state secretaries are appointed. Conflicts of interest and compliance with reporting obligations in terms of assets, interests and activities, a certificate of their tax status. Criminal record No. 2 is also forwarded, but not necessarily blank. It is the Prime Minister who receives this information and disposes of it as long as it does not concern him.

Should ministers renew these declarations?

Yes. As soon as there is a change in their assets or interests. In this case, the members of the government concerned may be subject to the “expulsion” orders listed in the registry to avoid conflicts of interest. So they won’t be dealing with some files that have been “deported” into the hands of another member of the government.

For example, Agnès Buzyn, Minister of Solidarity and Health, was released from the control of the National Institute of Health and Medical Research (Inserm) because her husband was managing it. Similarly, Nicolas Hulot, former Minister of Ecological and Inclusive Transition, was spared questions regarding the Nicolas Hulot Nature and Human Foundation and the Ushuaïa cosmetics brand.

What’s the risk of stubborn people?

If a minister does not make a statement, HATVP calls the concerned person to account within a month. For example, ministers Eric Dupond-Moretti and Roselyne Bachelot had to submit corrective statements of interest in July 2021.

If a statement is false, he confiscates the Paris prosecutor’s office. Penalties include imprisonment, fines and dismissal.

Regardless of the action, deficiencies are reported to the Prime Minister.

Which ministers and senior officials were dismissed?

Many politicians and senior civil servants are on trial or under investigation. But that doesn’t mean they’re all guilty. Only justice, once done, has the last word. But when HATVP was created, he quickly became active, especially with Yamina Benguigui and Aquilino Morelle. But also Thomas Thévenoud.

Yamina Benguigui Minister Delegate for La Francophonie in 2014 is the first major case to be administered by HATVP. The administration detects lies and omissions in statements of assets and interests, especially in shares in a Belgian company. The file is sent to the court. On September 23, 2015, Yamina Benguigui, defended by Eric Dupond-Moretti, was found guilty of making false statements. But he was forgiven. The Paris prosecutor’s office is going to appeal. On September 27, 2016, she was sentenced to a one-year ban, two months suspended sentence and a fine of 5,000 euros.

aquilino nightshadeHe served as a political adviser in the office of President François Hollande from May 2012 to April 2014. Mediapart announced in mid-April 2014 that it has links with pharmaceutical laboratories and does not declare fees by a Danish laboratory. HATVP seized the Office of the Chief Public Prosecutor on suspicion of obtaining illegal benefits. A councilor doesn’t resign without an accident. But in March 2015, Aquilino Morelle announced that “the preliminary investigation has been closed without follow-up”. That’s why it’s bleached.

when it comes Thomas Thevenoud, the public remembers him above all for his “management phobia”, with the excuse that he “forgot” to declare his income for several years. The Foreign Minister in the Valls government was also unable to pay the rent of his Paris flat for three years. Not to mention unpaid fines, a rollback procedure by EDF Bourgogne, and even delayed litigation. He resigned from his post on September 4, 2014, nine days after his appointment. He and his wife were sentenced to a one-year suspended sentence and three-year ban on appeal on January 31, 2018. In 2014, they streamlined their tax situation.

And once outside the government?

Quitting your job does not mean you are not responsible. Within two months of leaving, Ministers and Secretaries of State must submit new “terminal” statements of assets and interests to the HATVP. The aim is to fight corruption by verifying that the person did not become illegally enriched while in government.

But verification takes more than three years. During this period, outgoing members may be prohibited or authorized by HATVP to engage in self-employment or paid activity within a company or a public industrial and commercial organization.

If ex-ministers violate the ban or reservations to avoid conflict of interest, HATVP issues it. official newspaper prepares a special report and sends it to the prosecutor’s office.

Advice to avoid punishment

HATVP publishes a large number of opinions every month, upon the request of those concerned. So they know they can avoid conflicts of interest or whether a new job is compatible with their function.

In recent weeks, he has issued comments on the professional retraining of Jean-Baptiste Djebbari, Minister of State for Ecological Transition, and Alice Lefort, who has since been a technical transportation adviser in the Offices of the President and the Prime Minister. 20 July 2020.

End of contract compensations

Ministers and Secretaries of State are entitled to an allowance equivalent to their income in office for a maximum period of three months. If they continue a paid activity before this deadline, the allowance will be cancelled.

Those who do not make definite statements are deprived of this.