French parliamentarian questions Jacques Chirac's Elysée budget

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Thursday, October 6, 2005

A member of the French National Assembly, René Dosière, denounces the "opacity" in the budget of the Élysée Palace, the office of the President of the French Republic.

According to him, the president's real budget is approximately three times the budget given for his services in the yearly national budget voted by the French Parliament, because many employees and services are provided by other ministries and public services free of charge to the presidency, and thus are counted in other budgets. As an example, the French Ministry of Defense provides republican guards and other soldiers, as well as aerial transportation; the Ministry of Foreign Affairs funds official foreign trips; and repairs, furnitures etc. to presidential offices are funded by the Ministry of Culture. Mr Dosière reports that in 2003, the total spending was 82.6 million Euros, while the official budget of the presidency was 30.5 million.

Mr Dosière started inquiring about presidential expenses about four years ago, and since then has been a critic of the opacity of accounting at the presidency. In order to obtain the necessary information, he has had to ask numerous questions to the executive and administrations.

In addition, he points out that the official budget of the presidency has boomed under Jacques Chirac's term: between 1995 and 2005, it climbed from 5,21 millions to 26,14 millions. In 1995, the president also had at his disposal some "secret funds", the total amount of which was voted by parliament, but which could be spent at his discretion. "Secret funds" were originally meant to fund specific missions that could not be funded within the exacting rules of public accounting, such as secret operations abroad, but they gradually also came to serve to pay various gratifications to government officials. Since 2002, secret funds have been cut and are reserved for paying for secret operations, while services that used them for normal operations were given special compensation. In 2005, the special compensation for the presidency was 5.5 million Euros.

In 2001, the French Parliament voted a law known as the LOLF (Loi d'orientation relative aux lois de finances) reforming the budget system, with a timetable for gradual implementation. This law mandates that any public spending should be traced to an identifiable "mission" of government.

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