PARIS – With the French government reeling over a minister’s tax-dodging scandal, President Francois Hollande proposed a law Wednesday that would force ministers, legislators and other senior officials to declare their assets publicly and submit to auditing by a “totally independent” authority before and after taking office.
Hollande’s legislation, which would mark a significant departure in French politics, was seen as an attempt to calm the political tempest that has arisen over an admission last week by Hollande’s former budget minister, Jerome Cahuzac, that he had a secret bank account in Switzerland.
Cahuzac, who was in charge of tax collection, had denied for months that he had such an account, including during a solemn appearance before the National Assembly.
Hollande said in a televised statement that he was “wounded, bruised” by Cahuzac’s lies and that, in response, he wanted to instill a new level of “morality” in France’s political life.
In addition to making officials’ assets public, he said, the government would create a special prosecutor post.
The prosecutor would pursue financial crimes and intensify the battle to close down “fiscal paradise” countries whose bank secrecy laws encourage tax evasion.
With Hollande’s Socialist Party enjoying a comfortable majority in the National Assembly as well as the Senate, the government’s proposal is likely to pass.
Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said that the legislation would be sent to the Parliament this month for passage before the summer vacation.
Under current rules, legislators must report their assets to the parliamentary leadership.
But the reports remain secret, and there is no mechanism for checking whether they are accurate or complete.
Except for this parliamentary report, ministers named by the president are not subjected to any prenomination investigation or legislative hearings.