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Top French civil servant quits over €40k taxi bills

Ben McPartland · 28 Apr 2015, 17:22

Published: 28 Apr 2015 17:22 GMT+02:00

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Agnès Saal, the head of France's National Audiovisual Institute finally stepped down on Tuesday as pressure increased for her to resign over a taxi fares scandal.

Saal presented her resignation at the demand of France's Culture Minister Fleur Pellerin. She steps down with immediate effect.

The move comes after calls for her to quit had increased as news of the scandal spread.

French newspaper Le Figaro reported at the weekend that Saal had built up €40,000 worth of bills over just a ten-month period.

The sum is even more shocking given that Saal's position meant she has access to her own chauffeur-driven company car as well.

The revelation was apparently sent to the Institute’s directors in an anonymous letter just in time for the organization’s annual board meeting last week. 

The total of €40,915 includes an annual €7,000 subscription to a private cab firm G7 as well as €32,000 in fares.

Saal defended her actions at the weekend as well as offering to pay back part of the bill.

“As CEO of INA I have a company car with a driver made available to me, but because I cannot force him to work 12 to 15 hours a day and weekends, I also have a subscription to G7 taxis, because I don’t hold a driving license,” she said.

“This system already existed before I arrived and I continued with it,” she said.

However when it emerged her son had used her work reservation number and racked up €6,700 of taxi receipts, Saal admitted her wrongdoing.

“It’s a mistake. I accept the responsibility and I have already reimbursed those costs,” she said.

The question was also raised about the €7,800 worth of taxi fares that were charged at weekends, to which Saal said:

“It is not clear whether a taxi ride to an event in which I represent INA is professional or personal,” she said, before adding that only between a quarter and a third of weekend taxi fares were for business use.

Story continues below…

The Huffington Post worked out that €40,000 over 10 months was equivalent to her (or her son) spending one hour 12 minutes in a taxi each day.

Anti-corruption association Anticor had threatened to go to court if Saal did not step down.

"It's about public money and significant amounts of money," Anticor head Jean-Christophe Picard told Le Parisien daily on Tuesday.

"Anyone with rudiments of accounting would start at such sums."


Ben McPartland (ben.mcpartland@thelocal.com)

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