French MPs Reject Parliamentary Expense Management Reforms

Last month the French National Assembly voted four to one against Charles de Courson’s proposal, calling on French MPs to declare expenses which do not relate to their job. This was at a time when the French government was preparing austerity measures for the economy. Currently, French MPs do not have to account for how they spend their €60, 000 a year expense allowance or the €109, 000 they receive annually for staff expenses on top of their €72, 000 yearly salary.

de Courson warned that knowing that “some colleagues use part of these allowances for expenses other than professional ones… will one day [become] a big scandal, like the one in Great Britain.”

MPs argued that de Courson’s measure would threaten parliamentary sovereignty and independence. However, this latest unwillingness to adopt reform measures, together with the MPs refusal to cut their salaries by 30 per cent in line with the newly elected president and his ministers, has crystallised their lack of enthusiasm to lead by example during a time of economic austerity.

This is despite the fact that a recent study by the French Institute for Research on Public Policy and Administration found that on average French MPs enjoy a 77 per cent higher income than their British or German counterparts.

With the media spotlight on MPs expenses, there have been a number of French parliamentarians who have had to answer questions about their expenses. Last month, a Mediapart investigation revealed expense abuses by Pascal Terrasse, a Socialist member of the National Assembly. Mediapart found that Terrasse used public money for family holidays abroad and private bar bills. While, Christian Blanc, state secretary in the last government resigned after it emerged that he claimed €12, 000 which he spent on Cuban cigars as an expense.

Mr. de Courson hoped that the measure would give parliamentarians the opportunity to lead by example, during a time when Europe is experiencing an economic crisis. This recent rejection to adopt parliamentary expenses reforms, which would have promoted accountability and transparency, may mean that more embarrassing stories will emerge about parliamentary expense abuses.

In 2010 expense@work from systems@work was selected to manage the expenses of the UK’s MPs. You can learn more about that implementation here: http://www.systemsatwork.co.uk/case-studies/ipsa-case-study/