The French General Inspectorate of Finance


Posted by Grégoire Tirot[1]

Created in 1797, the Inspection générale des finances (IGF – General Inspectorate of Finance) is a high level consulting and auditing service that is part of the French Ministry of Finance and Economy. In 1831, during the reign of Louis-Philippe, Baron Louis, Minister of Finance at that time, made the IGF the only body of control of his ministry: "The IGF is the arm and eye of the minister," he wrote. Today the IGF works not only for the Minister of Finance and Economy but for the entire government.

The IGF is considered as one of the three most prestigious organs of the French State (“Grands corps de l’Etat”), along with the Council of State (“Conseil d’Etat” which is the highest administrative jurisdiction in France) and the Court of Auditors (“Court des comptes”). Since the beginning of the Fifth Republic in 1958, one president of the Republic (Valéry Giscard d’Estaing) and four Prime Ministers have come from the IGF.

The IMF and the IGF have a close historical association: Pierre-Paul Schweitzer, managing director of the IMF from 1963 to 1973, was a former member of the IGF, as well as Jacques de la Rosière, managing director of the Fund from 1978 to 1987. Indeed, working in the IGF can lead to senior positions in many international financial and economic organizations: Pascal Lamy, director-general of the WTO from 2005 to 2013 is also a general inspector of finance, as well as Jean-Claude Trichet, president of the European Central Bank from 2003 to 2011.

The IGF carries out mainly three types of mission:

The IGF is a powerful organization, but very small in terms of its staffing. At the end of 2015 it comprised:

The “junior” inspectors of finance generally leave the service after four years to take up positions in ministries, public bodies, public enterprises, or in the private sector.

The IGF sets high value on the strength and quality of the methods used in the field of verification and audit, and its advisory and consulting work. An assignment carried out by the IGF typically lasts between three and six months, and is subject to strict internal peer review.

In 2015, almost half of the IGF’s assignments were carried out in partnership with another auditing service and inspection of the government (mainly the General Social Affairs Inspection (IGAS), the General Public Administration Inspection (IGA), and the General Council of Environment and Sustainable Development (CGEDD). In addition, the IGF has developed a close working relationship with the academic community, which enables it to keep at the cutting edge of research, and to develop new analytical tools and methodologies.

It would be wrong to conclude that the IGF is a typically French administrative “curiosity”. The model of a financial inspectorate has spread to, or has inspired many countries since the 19th century: mostly in Europe (Belgium, Spain[4], Portugal, Albania) and in Africa (Morocco, Algeria, Central African Republic, Niger, Senegal, Mali, Ivory Coast, Mozambique, Angola, Cape Verde, Sao Tome and Principe, Guinea Bissau), but also in other parts of the world (East Timor for example). This is another story, however, which, as far as we know, has not yet been written!

[1] Inspector of Finance, Inspection générale des finances, France.

[2] The 2015 activity report of the IGF is available here (in French) :

[3] Summary in English available here :

[4] Departamento de Inspeccion Financiera y Tributaria.

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