Pierre Maudet, Geneva’s embattled minister in charge of business promotion, announced his resignation on Thursday. This comes after the cantonal government temporarily stripped him of his position after a critical external auditor’s report into high rates of absenteeism in his department.This content was published on October 29, 2020 - 16:54
On Thursday, the combative politician told reporters in Geneva that he plans to officially hand in his resignation next week as the head of the department for economic development.
“I disturb people and I’ve been sidelined,” he told a press conference.
Maudet said he intends to stay in office until the by-election (slated to be held between now and March 2021) which he intends to contest as an independent candidate.
“I was elected and I’m a member of the executive and you can’t just strip one of the members of their attributions. Only the citizens can do so.”
His dramatic declaration came the day after his government colleagues decided to temporarily suspend him from his functions after an intermediary report into staff management in his service.
“This emergency measure was taken in light of the seriousness of the facts uncovered by the external expert,” the president of the Geneva government, Anne Emery-Torracinta, told reporters on Wednesday. “The executive branch, as the employer, has a duty to protect the health of all its staff.”
The auditor was brought in to investigate an increasing rate of absenteeism within the Office for Economic Development, Research and Innovation, which grew by 13% between May 2019 and April 2020, as Swiss public radio RTS reported. The audit implicates Maudet in organisational, managerial and personnel-relations problems.
Maudet called the auditor's decision "unjustified and premature”, pointing out he had not been interviewed by the auditor.
It is the latest professional setback for the high-profile politician, who has faced a series of political and legal woes in recent years. Over the past two years he has been under investigation for accepting undue financial benefits, notably a family trip to the United Arab Emirates in 2015. A public trial is expected in the coming months.
In 2018 he was stripped of his powers as president of the canton and head of the security department, before being given the reins of the newly created department for economic innovation.
Maudet, who unsuccessfully ran for the position of Swiss cabinet minister in 2017, has always denied the unauthorised benefits allegations and apologised for his “imperfections”. The cantonal chapter of his former Radical Party as well as the national leadership have repeatedly called on Maudet to resign, but in the past he always ruled out the idea of stepping down.