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February 2011

 File n°51 

The Assessment of Public Policies

 

 

 

 

 

 

    Key Points

    The National Assembly has, over recent years, set up, in the framework of its prerogatives concerning financial monitoring, two permanent missions whose aim is to oversee the efficiency of public expenditure.

    One, the Assessment and Monitoring Mission (MEC) is responsible for monitoring the use of public funds; the other, the Assessment and Monitoring Mission for the Laws Governing Social Security Financing Laws (MECSS), is in charge of checking the application of the laws concerning the financing of social security and of assessing all questions concerning the finances of social security.

    In addition, the reform of the Rules of Procedure of May 27, 2009, set up the Commission for the Assessment and Monitoring of Public Policies (CEC). This commission enables the National Assembly to implement the mission of monitoring and assessment which is henceforth recognized by article 24 of the Constitution. It carries out assessments of public policies and brings its expertise to the impact studies which accompany bills tabled by the Government.

See also files 24, 49 and 53

 

    I. – THE ASSESSMENT AND MONITORING MISSION (MEC)

    The Assessment and Monitoring Mission (MEC) is based on the National Audit Office of the British Parliament. It was set up within the Finance Committee in February 1999 following the conclusions of a working group on parliamentary monitoring and the efficiency of public spending which was at the origin of the Institutional Act on Finance Laws (LOLF). This group, at the end of its work, recommended the setting-up of a structure which would be responsible for the interviewing of political and administrative leaders on the management of their funds and which would carry out in-depth investigations into predetermined sectors of public policy.

    This mission has the specificity of being co-chaired by an M.P. of the governing majority and an M.P. of the opposition. Its 16 members all belong to the Finance Committee and are appointed, in equal numbers representing the governing majority and the opposition, by the political groups. The Chairman of the Committee and the General Rapporteur are ex-officio members. The other standing committees may request some of their members to attend.

    The choice of themes dealt with by the Assessment and Monitoring Mission is decided by the Bureau of the Finance Committee which means that they can be co-ordinated with the overall work of the Committee.

    The Assessment and Monitoring Mission works in collaboration with the Court of Accounts which is consulted in advance on the choice of themes decided upon. Members of the Court of Auditors attend its meetings. A report requested from the Court of Auditors in accordance with article 47-2 of the Constitution or with paragraph 2 of article 58 of the LOLF, is often at the origin of this work.

    Its reports are systematically entrusted to two, even three, M.P.s and this means that the ruling majority and the opposition work together as well as other standing committees, so that consensual conclusions may be reached.

    The working methods (essentially interviews but also in-situ visits and questionnaires to the relevant actors) are those of all the fact-finding missions. The interviews are open to the public and to the press with certain exceptions, particularly when national defence issues are at stake.

    The LOLF also provides the MEC with the widespread powers given to rapporteurs to summons witnesses and to have access to all documents, with the exception of those concerning questions of a confidential nature (national defence, state security, judicial confidentiality, medical secret etc.).

    The conclusions of the Assessment and Monitoring Mission (which deliberates in camera) are submitted to the Finance Committee so that it may decide whether or not to publish a report. Its proposals, which deal with concrete measures for the improvement of public policies, are often subject to a follow-up one year later: report or presentation in committee.

    Furthermore, in accordance with article 60 of the LOLF, when the work of the MEC leads to observations which are transmitted to Government, the latter is required to provide a written reply within two months.

    Information Reports of the Assessment and Monitoring Mission

      XIth term of Parliament

      1999-2000 

      - Motorway Policy

      - The Management of Staff and Means of the National Police Force

      - Employment stimulus measures

      - The Use of Funds for Vocational Training

      2000-2001 

      - The Modernization of University Management

      - The Working of COTOREP

      - Tax Collection

      2001-2002 

      - The Use of Means in Justice

      - Social Accommodation

      - The Financing and Management of Water

      XIIth term of Parliament

      2002-2003

      - Organizations in charge of Public Assessment and Economic and Social Prospective

      - The Impact of Architects and Archaeological Services in the Procedures for Safeguarding the National Heritage

      2003-2004

      - The Clarification of the Relations between the Rail System and its Public Partners

      - The Direction of National Service and the Day Devoted to the Preparation of National Defence.

      2004-2005

      - The Management and Transfer of the State-owned Real Estate and Public Establishments

      - The Norms Decreed by Sporting Federations and Leagues

      - The Development of Budget Costs Regarding requests for Asylum

      - 2005-2006

      - The Governing of Universities in the Context of the LOLF (New Finance Law)

      - State Services Abroad

      - Armament Programmes, Based on the example of Infantry Armoured Combat Vehicle

      - Follow-up reports: Management and Transfer of State-owned Real estate, Budgetary Cost of Requests for Asylum

    Information Reports of the Assessment and Monitoring Mission

      XIIIth term of Parliament

      2007-2008

      - The Financing of Naval Military Equipment

      - The Allocation of Funding for Universities

      - Human Resource Management at the Ministry for Ecology, Energy, Sustainable Development and Regional Development

      - Follow-up reports: State-owned Real Estate

      - The Impact of Architects and Archaeological Services in the Procedures for Safeguarding the National Heritage

      2008-2009

      - The Louvre Museum

      - The Cost of External Military Operations, Notably under International Mandate

      - The Financing of Departmental Fire and Aid Services (SDIS)

      - Assessment and Perspectives for Competitive Clusters

    II. – ASSESSMENT AND MONITORING MISSION FOR SOCIAL SECURITY FINANCING LAWS (MECSS)

    The Assessment and Monitoring Mission for Social Security Financing Laws (MECSS) was set up within the Committee for Cultural, Family and Social Affairs in December 2004 in accordance with article 38 of Law n° 2004-810 of August 13, 2004 concerning health insurance. Institutional Act n°2005-881 of August 2, 2005 concerning social security financing laws provided for its setting-up, broadened its scope for investigation and detailed its powers in articles L.O. 111-9, L.O. 111-9-1, L.O. 111-9-3 and L.O. 111-10 of the Social Security Code.

    The MECSS permanently follows the implementation of social security financing laws and assesses any question concerning the financing of social security. It is jointly chaired by an M.P. of the governing majority and of the opposition and its eighteen members belong to the Social Affairs Committee and are appointed by the political groups. Its composition attempts to reproduce the political configuration of the Assembly and the other standing committees may request some of their members to attend.

    The choice of themes dealt with by the MECSS is decided by the Bureau of the Social Affairs Committee after consultation with the Court of Accounts.

    The working methods (essentially interviews but also in-situ visits) are those of all the fact-finding missions. The interviews are open to the public and to the press with some exceptions. In addition, the MECSS has widespread powers to summons witnesses and to have access to all documents, as well as to carry out inspections in situ of state administrations and social security bodies. Exceptions are made for questions of a confidential nature (national defence, state security, judicial confidentiality, medical secret etc.).

    Since the Constitutional Act n°96-138 of June 22, 1996, the Court of Accounts assists Parliament in the monitoring of the implementation of social security financing laws. Article 47-2 of the Constitution which itself was introduced by article 22 of the Constitutional Act n°2008-724 of July 23, 2008, broadened the scope of this assistance regarding the assessment of public policies and thus of questions concerning the financing of social security. Therefore members of this institution take part in the hearings of the MECSS and in its preparatory meetings. The Court of Accounts also carries out inquiries on bodies under its inspection remit and the MECSS can benefit from such inspections.

    In addition, the MECSS has obtained the agreement of the General Inspection of Social Affairs.

    The conclusions of the MECSS (which deliberates in camera) are presented to the Social Affairs Committee and the report is then published in the conditions determined by the bureau of the committee.

    In accordance with article L.O. 111-9-3 of the Social Security Code, when the work of the MECSS leads to observations which are transmitted to Government or to a social security body, both of the latter are required to provide a reply within two months.


    Information Reports of the MECSS

    II. – THE COMMISSION FOR ASSESSMENT AND MONITORING (CEC)

    The Commission for Assessment and Monitoring (CEC) was set up by the reform of the Rules of Procedure of May 27, 2009. It enables the National Assembly to implement the mission of monitoring and assessment which is explicitly recognized by article 24 of the Constitution. The CEC is an operational monitoring body which, on the one hand, carries out assessments of public policies and on the other hand, brings its expertise to the impact studies which accompany bills tabled by the Government.

    Article 146-2 of the Rules of Procedure of the National Assembly provides that the CEC, which is chaired by the President of the National Assembly, includes a certain number of ex-officio members: the chairmen of standing committees and the chairman of the Committee in Charge of European Affairs; the General Rapporteur of the Finance Committee; the Chairman or the First Deputy Chairman of the Parliamentary Office for Scientific and Technological Assessment (OPECST) as well as the Chairman of the Parliamentary Delegation for the Rights of Women and for Equal Opportunities between men and women; the chairmen of each political group who may be replaced by a substitute. The commission also includes 15 other members appointed in the same way as the members of standing committees. The overall make-up of the commission is based upon the political configuration of the National Assembly.

    In order to carry out its missions, which scope is strictly defined by the Constitutional Council (decision n° 2009-581 DC of June 25, 2009), the CEC has the following functions:

    - It ensures the assessment of a broad range of public policies: the CEC, upon its own initiative or upon the request of a standing committee, assesses public policies in a broader remit than that of a standing committee. Each group may automatically obtain the right to one assessment per ordinary session (article 146-2 of the Rules of Procedure);

    - It must be informed of the conclusions of fact-finding missions: the CEC is informed of the conclusions of fact-finding missions whether they be set up by a single standing committee, jointly organized by several standing committees or established by the Conference of Presidents (article 146-3 of the Rules of Procedure);

    - It gives an opinion on impact studies accompanying bills: the chairman of a lead committee may refer a matter to the CEC so that it may give its opinion on the documents accompanying the bill and which summarize the impact study. It must decide if such documents are in conformity with the requirements set down in article 8 of Institutional Act n°2009-403 of April 15, 2009 concerning the application of articles 34-1, 39 and 44 of the Constitution (article 146-4 of the Rules of Procedure);

    - It must put forward proposals for the agenda of the week given over to monitoring and assessment: in accordance with article 48 of the Constitution, the CEC may “in particular, propose the organization in plenary sitting, of debates without votes or sittings with questions on the conclusions of its reports or on those of the reports of fact-finding missions” of standing committees or of the Conference of Presidents (article 146-5 of the Rules of Procedure).

    Work Programme of the CEC

      XIIIth term of Parliament

      2009-2010

      - Implementation of article 5 of the Charter for the Environment concerning the application of the precautionary principle

      - Aid policy for disadvantaged areas

      - The efficiency of independent administrative authorities