• Who declares ?

    The scope of the laws of 11 October 2013 was initially covering about 10 000 public officials. That scope has incrementally expanded to reach about 15 800 public officials on 1 January 2018.

    Public officials who have to submit electronic declarations of assets and/or declarations of interests to the High Authority

    _ Members of the Government, a pre-vetting procedure may take place before their nomination,

    _ Members of the Parliament,

    _ Candidates to the presidential election (declaration are published at least two weeks before the first round)

    _ French Members of the European Parliament.

    _ Major local elected officials (president of regional or departmental councils, mayors of towns of 20 000 inhabitants and more, etc.),

    _ High-ranking civil servants nominated by the Council of Ministers (ambassadors, prefects, central administration directors, Secretaries general, etc.)

    _ Advisors to the President of the Republic, Ministers, Presidents of the National Assembly and Senate, but also directors, deputy-directors and heads of cabinets of major local elected officials, etc.

    _ Members of the Supreme Council of the Judiciary : in France, there is no dedicated institution in charge of controlling declarations of assets and interest of judges. Provisions regarding such obligation and control were included in the Law n° 2016-1090 of 8 August 2016 relating to statutory guarantees, ethical obligations and the recruitment of magistrates and to the Supreme Council of the Judiciary but were censored by the Constitutional Council in its decision n° 2016-732. The Constitutional Council considered that by submitting only the most important magistrates to a declaration of asset, the law disregarded the principle of equal treatment between all judges. Nonetheless, all members of the judiciary have to file a declaration of interests to the President of their court or to their Prosecutor.

    _ Members of independent administrative authorities,

    _ Heads of publicly owned entities;

    _ Some civil servants and military officials;

    _ Chairpersons of sports federations, sport professional leagues and organizing committees of major sports events (like the 2024 Olympics).

    These public officials must submit to the High Authority, in the two months following their entry into functions or the beginning of their mandate, two declarations: a declaration of assets and a declaration of interests.

    The declarations of interests are a major innovation of the laws of 11 October 2013 and a key instrument of prevention of conflicts of interests.

  • What to declare ?

    The declarations aim at providing a precise photography of the assets and interests held by a public official at a given time. Filing guidelines published by the High Authority detail practical modalities, delays to file declarations, the exact content of each field of the declarations, the modalities – if applicable – of publication of these declarations, how they should signal any evolution in their assets or interests or how to obtain support for filling the declaration.

    Public officials falling within the scope of these obligations must fill in a declaration of interest in the first two months after their election or nomination. In case of a substantial modification of the public official’s interests (new activities or involvements, change in the spouse or partner’s professional activity, substantial change in the action portfolios, etc.), he or she must update the declaration of interests.

    The objective is to prevent conflicts of interests.

    The declaration of assets includes:

    Public officials submitting declarations to the High Authority need to do so in the two months following their nomination or election. They must also submit an end-of-term or end-of-office declaration at the latest two months after termination of their functions or before the end of term for elected officials. In between, they must update their declaration of assets in case of substantive change, (inheritance, acquisition of a property, etc.). If they did it in the previous year however, they do not have to issue a new declaration of assets, except in case of substantial modification of the assets.

    The objective behind the declaration of assets is to verify that the exercise of a mandate or functions has not been the occasion of an unexplained variation of wealth. The High Authority thus control the variation of assets during the mandate or the functions.

  • What is the submission process ?

    In 2014, all declarations were received under paper format only. Since October 2016, all declarations are filed online. The application is secured, and allows to declare easily and quickly. Filers may contact the dedicated hotline (phone or mail) should they have questions, and explanations are provided online for each step of the process.

    A considerable number of declarations were received in 2014: nearly 18 000 declarations, which is more than what the former Commission for financial transparency of political life had ever received during its existence.

    In addition, for 2017 only, 10 622 declarations were received, mainly declarations of interest and activities (4097), declarations of assets (4327) and end-of-mandate or end-of-functions declarations of assets (2198).

    In the absence of a submission in the legal delays or in the case of an incomplete declaration, the High Authority sends a reminder. Indeed, the fact that a public official falling within the scope of the High Authority does not file a declaration as mentioned in articles 4 and 11 of law n°2013-907 is a criminal offense. It is punished with a 3-year imprisonment sentence and a 45 000€ fine. The reminders respect the following this procedure :

    _ A formal notice is sent to the public official for submission in an 8-day delay,

    _ In the absence of an answer in this delay:

    1 – For the public official mentioned in article LO 135-1 of the electoral code (members of parliament), the president of the High Authority refer to the assembly office concerned, based on article LO 136-2 of the electoral code.

    2 – For the public official mentioned in articles 4 and 11 of the 11 October 2013 law, the Board adopts an injunction to submit the declaration.

    In 2017, a peculiar period given the electoral calendar, 439 reminders were sent to public officials for non-submission or incomplete declaration. After the delay expired, 126 of them received an injunction.

  • What is the monitoring process ?

    Upon reception of a declaration, a first formal check of the disclosed data is operated. It is a double check, making sure on the one hand that public officials submitting a declaration fall within the scope of the High Authority (eligibility check) and on the other hand that declarations are complete (completeness check).

    After reception and the first formal systematic verification of both the declarations of assets and the declarations of interests, the completeness, accuracy and consistency of the content is later checked to ensure there are no omissions, misevaluations or shortcomings.

    The monitoring of a declaration of assets answers to three objectives:  verify the coherence of the declaration, detect any important omissions or inexplicable variation of assets and prevent illicit enrichment.

    The monitoring of a declaration of interests allows to prevent conflicts of interests. Indeed, the identification of potential such situations in the control process can lead to several outcomes depending on the type of conflict of interests.

    The Board of the High Authority defines and adopts a yearly control plan. It is based on risk exposure, occupied functions and seniority of the different categories of public officials. Control priorities are also bound to legal publication deadlines for the public officials whose declarations are made public on the website of the High Authority.  All declarations are checked but some of them are subject to a more thorough control.

    Five motives can lead to such an in-depth verification proces

    _ A specific exposure;

    _ The fact that, upon formal verification, the declarations are visibly incomplete, sent after the delays or erroneous (35% of in-depth controls in 2016);

    _ Red flags (civil society organizations, citizens, other administrations, etc.);

    _ A random check, selected across all categories of filers by random computer generated draws (25% of in-depth controls in 2016);

    _ Abnormalities revealed in controlling assets variation during the mandate or time in office (40% of in-depth controls in 2016).

    A very important partner of the High Authority in its control missions is the tax administration. In 2016, the High Authority and the tax administration signed a protocol to clarify their relations. Since January 2017, the High Authority staff members are allowed to connect directly to some of the tax administration databases and applications to carry out routine checks, especially to value real estates, to access the list of registered bank accounts or to access cadastral information. But the tax administration remains a powerful partner to check public officials’ income, access and gather other information (bank or notarial information, international assistance for assets held abroad, etc.) .

    In addition, cooperation between the National anti-money laundering service and the High Authority has been subject to legislative developments in December 2016. The anti-money laundering service and the High Authority can now share relevant information to their respective controls and investigation procedures. A protocol between the two institutions was signed in September 2017. Regarding cooperation with courts, a memo of the Directorate for Criminal Matters and Pardons and an instruction of the Attorney General for financial magistrates have been drafted and signed to formalize information sharing procedures with prosecutors and audit courts.

    The High Authority also uses a number of publicly available databases (open or upon subscription) such as commercial registries, etc. An internal software has been designed and is currently being used to centralize all information (news, social media, databases, etc.) on public officials falling in the scope of the missions entrusted to the High Authority.

    In the contradictory phase of the control procedures, public officials are allowed to justify the content of their declarations and to update their declaration of interest if needed. Only for 2017, 606 declarations of assets. This figure includes such updates and corrections after exchanges with the services of the High Authority but also substantial modifications declared by public officials as they occurred, in order to notify them to the High Authority as foreseen in the law.

    Information sources, interinstitutional partnerships and results of the control procedures

  • What are the results ?

    At the end of the monitoring procedure, the High Authority is entitled to:

    _ Close the review;

    _ Make a public assessment, in other words an observation, if deemed relevant regarding the “exhaustiveness, accuracy and sincerity” of the declaration, after giving the person the opportunity to send its comments;

    _ In the most problematic cases, refer the case to the public prosecutor’s office, who will then decide whether or not to pursue a criminal investigation. Regarding members of Parliament, the file must be referred to the Bureau of the relevant assembly.

    If the board of the High Authority identifies potential infractions, several sanction apply :

    With regard to the declaration of assets

    Article 26 of the Law of 11 October 2013 provides that “if one of the persons referred to in Articles 4 or 11 of this Act does not file one of the declarations provided for in said Articles, fails to declare a substantive part of their assets or their interests or provides an untruthful evaluation of their assets, they shall receive a three-year prison sentence and a €45,000 fine”.

    Additional penalties may be handed down in the form of loss of civic rights, in accordance with Articles 131-26 and 131-26-1 of the Criminal Code, as well as the prohibition of holding public office, in accordance with Article 131-27 of the same Code.”

    Moreover, if nominated public officials that are listed in section III of article 11 of the Law n° 2013-907 of 11 October 2013 do not submit a declaration after the two month-delay, their nomination is considered null.

    With regard to the declaration of interests

    If the conflict of interests meet the criteria of the criminal offence provided at article 432-12 of the criminal code (taking an illegal advantage), it can lead to a sentence of 5 years in prison, a 500 000 € fine and a disqualification for any public office for a maximum of 10 years;

    In other cases, when a conflict of interests arises during office, the law provides that the High Authority has an injunction power and can ask a public official to put an end to a situation of conflict of interests. This injunction can be made public and if it is not followed by actions, the concerned public official may be sentenced with up to one-year imprisonment and a 15 000€ fine.

    In practice, the control procedures resulted in the transmission of a declaration to prosecutors for inaccurate submission in 30 cases since 2013, for offences provided for in the Law on transparency in public life: 9 in 2014-2015, 12 in 2016 and 9 in 2017.

    The pre-existing administrative commission had transmitted 12 files to courts in 25 years of existence but only one resulted in a conviction.

    As far as interests are concerned, there has never been any injunction to stop a conflict of interests so far. In the contradictory phase of the verification process or when they faced ethical questions in the exercise of their public functions, public officials asked the High Authority for advice and decided to take arrangements (mostly abstention or deport, financial management mandate but also to a small extent abandonment of an interest) in order to avoid such situations and sanctions.

    Overall, control of assets through submission of declarations of assets and prevention and control of conflicts of interests through submission of declarations of interests are closely intertwined. For instance, the High Authority transmitted to the Prosecutor both declarations for a public official who had forgotten to declare a bank account both in his declaration of interests and of assets. Moreover, the declaration of interests may shed light on the control of the variation of assets in the declarations of asset (parts in societies, peculiar interests or remunerated activities, etc.) and may allow to detect criminal offences, like taking an illegal advantage which is a felony referred to in article 432-12 of the French criminal code. Such tools may also bring more evidence to ongoing judicial procedures related to fraud for instance or money laundering. They may thus be used in closer cooperation with the judicial authorities.

    All cases referred to competent public prosecutors have so far resulted in systematic judicial investigations and proceedings. The first definitive sanctions were pronounced in 2016 and a few examples now include:

    _ April 2016: six-month suspended sentence and 60 000€ fine for a senator ;

    _ September 2016: a 1-year ineligibility and 2-month suspended sentence and a 5 000€ fine for a former Minister ;

    _ November 2016: 45 000€ fine for a member of the National assembly ;

    _ October 2017: four-month suspended sentence and a 30 000€ fine for a former Member of the National Assembly

  • What is published ?

    Under Article 5 and article 12 of the law n°2013-907 of 11 October 2013 on transparency in public, the content of the declarations of assets and the declaration of interests of the members of the Government and members of the Parliament are made public in the three months following the reception of the opinion of the tax administration on their declarations. Yet, in peculiarly demanding periods (renewal of the National assembly, Senate, etc.), considering the human resources of the High Authority and the implementation of a contradictory approach allowing filers to justify or complete the information transmitted, delays have been faced or are to be expected. Indeed, the High Authority publishes the declarations once they have been checked in order to allow access to all to complete and accurate information and to accompany the declarations of a public statement in case the High Authority identifies an irregularity.

    The declarations of interests of french members of the European Parliament and mayors of big cities and towns, but also of regions are also available on the website. In addition, the declarations of assets of parliamentarians can be accessed in certain governmental buildings, though not published on the internet. The high authority cannot publish declarations of others public officials.

    The published declarations remain online until the end of the mandate or the functions. When the declaration is filed after termination of the mandate or the functions, its content remains accessible for six months after that date.

    Declarations of assets and of interests of members of the Government were the first to be published in June 2014 thus respecting legal delays. Declarations of assets of members of the Parliament were made public in Prefectures in July 2015. They are not published on the website of the High Authority, by contrast to their declarations of interests and activities. The declaration of assets of the other public officials are not published, in compliance with a decision of the Constitutional Council.

    On 1 January 2018, 2352 declarations were published.

  • Prevent conflict of interest

    To prevent conflicts of interests, the High Authority collects and controls declarations of interests. The scope is broad and allows to list all current and past activities, financial investments, positions in public or private organizations, professional activity of the spouse, and volunteer activities.

    For the first time in French Law, the law of 11 October 2013 on transparency in public life defined the notion of conflict of interest as “a situation in which a private or public interest interferes with a public interest in such a way that it influences or appears to influence the independent, impartial and objective performance of a duty”.

    This definition highlight three criteria about the conflict of interests. Firstly the public official holds an interest which can be direct or indirect, private or public, material or moral. Secondly, this interest must interfere with the exercise of a public duty, this interference can be material, geographical or temporal. And finally, this interference may influence, or appear to influence the “independent, impartial and objective performance of a duty”, it implies the examination of the intensity of the interference: there is a conflict of interest when the interference is sufficiently strong to raise reasonable doubts as to a public official’s capacity to carry out his or her functions objectively.

    When a situation of conflict of interests is detected, the high authority has different lever of actions:

    The High Authority can meet a public official to recommend him an appropriate solution to prevent or to stop a conflict of interest. The options can be, the revelation of the problematic interest, the reorganization of work (to avoid handling a subject linked to his or her interest) or the abandonment of an interest.

    If the situation continues, the High Authority can issue injunctions against public officials (except ministers and members of Parliament) requiring them to cease the activity causing the conflict of interest. The injunction can be made public, and it can be transfer to a prosecutor. Any non-compliance is a criminal offense liable to a year of imprisonment and a 15,000 € fine.

    Common types of potential conflicts of interests identified by the High Authority

    _ Accumulation between a public service and another activity, like a business activity, a voluntary activity, or participation to managing committees in companies or civil society organization.

    _ The profession of the public official’s spouse or partner.

    _ Precedent business activities in regards to the new public service.

    _ Holding financial instruments.

  • How to ensure the integrity of former public officials ?

    The Laws of 11 October 2013 entrusted the High Authority with a mission of regulating revolving doors for about 1,200 public officials falling within its scope.

    Context

    In order to prevent conflicts of interests and ethical breaches, the High Authority is entrusted with the mission of regulating professional activities of former ministers, board members of independent administrative authorities (1) and high-level local elected officials, such as presidents of regional councils and mayors of cities over 20,000 inhabitants. Currently, about 1,200 former public officials fall within the scope of this prerogative.

    In France, post-employment restrictions are applicable to certain categories of civil servants during a period of three years from the termination of their public duties. These restrictions aim at curbing the movement, known under the term “revolving doors”, of individuals switching from positions of public office to jobs in private entities in the same sector. Indeed, revolving door is perceived as a possible threat to the independence, impartiality and objectivity of public service and thus needs to be tackled.

    (1) Independent administrative authorities (AAI) are permanent bodies in the government structure responsible for the oversight and management of specific activities. They are created in areas considered essential and for which the government intends to avoid direct intervention.

    Procedure

    In this perspective, as set out in Article 23 of the Law of 11 October 2013 on transparency in public life, the High Authority rules on the compatibility of a liberal profession or remunerated activity with previous public duties. “Compatibility rulings” must be requested by former public officials within the scope of the High Authority before the start of their new occupation, but they can also be requested by the President of the High Authority upon discovery of an unauthorized activity. These rulings are the result of a thorough review, structured in two main parts.

    Firstly, the risks of unlawful taking of interest are assessed. During a cooling-off period of three years, former public officials are forbidden to engage in a remunerated activity for an entity that they controlled or supervised, or with which they concluded contracts or formulated opinions on contracts, or in respect of which they proposed decisions or gave advice on decisions to competent authorities. Violating this rule is punished by a three-year sentence and a 200 000 € fine. In its evaluation, the High Authority checks whether the envisaged activity is likely to violate criminal law.

    Secondly, the respect of ethical standards is examined. Former public officials should not compromise the dignity, integrity and probity of their former public office. Their new occupation should not prompt them to disregard the obligation of preventing conflicts of interest. Nor should it undermine the independent, impartial and objective functioning of the institution in which they performed their duties. In this sense, former public officials should not exploit their relations with their past service to benefit their current position, nor should they conduct any lobbying activity as defined in Article 18-2 of the Law of 11 October 2013 on transparency in public life. The High Authority determines whether the considered activity gives rise to ethical difficulties.

    Results

    Following this verification process, the High Authority can issue three types of ruling:

    _ Incompatibility: the incompatibility of a particular activity with previous public duties is declared, precluding the former public official in question from conducting the given activity.

    _ Compatibility with reservations: the envisaged activity is authorized but precautionary measures are established and need to be observed during a three-year period.

    _ Compatibility: the new occupation is unconditionally approved.

    After removing data protected by law, the High Authority can publish those rulings.

    In sum, the High Authority ensures the integrity of former public officials through the implementation of a preventive mechanism that, by certifying the compatibility of professional activities with public duties, limits criminal infractions and safeguards ethical standards. This mechanism responds to challenges posed by revolving doors and other interactions between the public and private spheres. Therefore, it supports the High Authority’s overall strategy to prevent conflicts of interest and promote transparency in public lif

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