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The Drawing-up, Examination and Approval of Questure Decisions
I. – A DECISION-MAKING BODY: THE QUESTEURS
1. – An institution which celebrated its bicentenary in 2003
As Eugène Pierre reminds us in his “Traité de droit politique, électoral et parlementaire”, (“Treatise on Political, Electoral and Parliamentary Law”), “representatives of a country have always chosen, from amongst their number, members in charge of overseeing that no material worry might occur which would hinder or block the path of legislative work”.
Thus, as of 1789, the National Assembly set out the tasks of those who would be called Questeurs by the Senatus Consultum of 28 frimaire, year XII (December 20, 1803), in reference to the administrative and financial role of the Questeurs of the Roman Republic.
2. – The questeurs are appointed by their peers
The three Questeurs are elected by M.P.s at the beginning of each term of Parliament and subsequently every year at the start of the ordinary session, except that which precedes the renewal of the Assembly.
There is in fact great stability in the holding of the office of Questeurs.
The appointment of the Questeurs follows a desire for pluralism which takes into account the size of the political groups in the National Assembly. In practice, one of the Questeurs is always a member of the opposition.
3. – The questeurs have a fourfold role
The tasks of the Questeurs are based on the principle of the financial autonomy of the parliamentary assemblies which was reiterated by the ordinance of November 17, 1958. They are detailed by the Rules of Procedure of the National Assembly and the General Instruction of the Bureau.
a) They Possess Financial and Budgetary Powers
They draw up and carry out the budget of the Assembly. They control all expenditure and all payments. They take the decisions concerning procurement contracts made by the National Assembly.
b) They Have an Administrative Management Power over the Staff and the Departments of the National Assembly
The Human Resources Department which is in charge of the recruitment and the management of the staff of the National Assembly answers to the General Secretariat of the Questure (as well as to the Secretary General).
c) They Manage the Relations of the National Assembly with the M.P.s and with the Outside
Thus, they provide the M.P.s with the premises and the material means necessary to carry out their office. They are members of the committee in charge of accrediting the press and of providing access cards and passes as well as authorizations to photograph and to film.
d) They Oversee Procedures in Cases of Conflict
4. – The questeurs take their decisions collegially
The decisions of the Questeurs are taken collegially during Questure meetings which are usually held every week during the parliamentary session and around twice a month outside that period. The collegiality is slightly offset by the existence of a lead Questeur. This position is held, in turns, by each of the three Questeurs for a month.
Each Questeur has, in theory, the right to veto but in practice, decisions never require a vote.
The Questeurs’ meetings, which are in addition attended by the two secretaries general and the General Director of Administrative Departments, are also an occasion for numerous exchanges on the administrative operation of the National Assembly.
The Questeurs are only responsible for their management in front of their peers and this through an ad-hoc committee in charge of checking and auditing the accounts.
II. – THE PREPARATION AND THE IMPLEMENTATION OF THE QUESTEURS DECISIONS
In order to carry out their duties and to take the decisions which fall within their remit, the Questeurs can rely on the administrative departments headed by the Secretary General of the Questure and the joint departments placed under the authority of the two secretaries general.
1. – The General Secretariat of the Questure
All the activities of the Questure are coordinated by a deliberately small and lightweight administrative structure which, in addition to the Secretary General of the Questure and the Director General of Administrative Departments, includes only a head of unit and two secretaries.
The Secretary General of the Questure prepares the Questeurs’ meetings, oversees, along with the departments, the drawing-up of the files submitted to the Questeurs, drafts the minutes, records the decisions and ensures their implementation as well as the publication of the decisions taken, in particular on the Intranet-Extranet sites “ 577”, for the M.P.s and their assistants and “Weban” for the staff (in the “ Nouvelles de la Questure”- “News from the Questure” section).
After each Questeurs’ meeting, the Secretary General of the Questure and the Director General of Administrative Departments bring together the directors of the relevant departments to inform them of the decisions taken and to set out the practical steps for their implementation.
They often chair the working groups set up to deal with matters involving several departments.
Matters which do not fall in the statutory remit of an administrative department are examined and followed by the General Secretariat of the Questure which is placed under the authority of the Secretary General of the Questure and the Director General of Administrative Departments. In addition, the senior adviser, head of the General Secretariat of the Questure, is at the disposal of the chairman of the ad-hoc committee in charge of checking and auditing the accounts and carries out the secretariat of this committee.
2. – Administrative departments and joint departments
a) The Director General of Administrative Departments
The Director General of Administrative Departments deputizes, as often as is necessary, for the Secretary General of the Questure. He is, in particular, in charge of coordinating measures concerning the safety and security of the Palais Bourbon and of all the premises of the National Assembly, as well as the implementation of the decisions of the National Assembly, acting in this capacity as contracting authority. He has, under his authority:
― The Reception, Safety and Security Unit within the General Administration and Security Department;
― The Procurement Rules and Control Unit (this unit studies and prepares, particularly in collaboration with the departments concerned, the decisions of the Questeurs as regards procurement contracts made by the National Assembly);
― The General Secretariat already referred to.
b) Other Administrative Departments
These departments examine, within the field of their statutory remit, the files submitted to the Questeurs and carry out their decisions.
The General Administration and Security Department includes two units: the General Administration Unit and the Reception, Safety and Security Unit. The head of the department is responsible for the implementation and the coordination of all safety and security measures applicable to the Palais Bourbon and all other buildings which are the property of the National Assembly.
― The General Administration Unit carries out all studies concerning general administration matters, plans all administrative aspects of parliamentary meetings to be held and manages the allocation and maintenance of meeting rooms. It services offices allocated to political groups, vice-presidents and M.P.s and provides medical consultations to M.P.s. It provides M.P.s with their identity cards. It processes all insurance claims regarding the National Assembly, as well as sponsorship requests submitted by external bodies. It also manages the secretariat of the committee in charge of auditing and balancing accounts.
― The Reception, Safety and Security Unit designs and coordinates all safety and security measures regarding individuals and property on the National Assembly premises. It is informed of all events to be held on these premises or in the surrounding areas if they are likely to have an impact on the security situation. It is in charge of the reception of individuals wishing to enter the National Assembly premises, provides security passes as well as vehicle access and parking permits, and liaises with the military commanding officer of the Palais Bourbon and external security services.
The Parliamentary Logistics Department consists of three units.
― The Publishing and Stationery Unit purchases and allocates equipment, stationery and services that are necessary to the operation of the Assembly and the carrying-out of the office of M.P. It is also responsible for publishing all parliamentary, institutional and administrative documents.
― The General Means Unit manages telephone contract plans and the Assembly’s telephone reception platform, as well as postal mail and the administration of the restaurants and bars located on the Assembly premises.
― The Transport Unit deals with all matters regarding M.P.s’ travel; it provides their travel cards as well as making reservations for train and plane tickets – both for M.P.s and staff travelling on a mission. It is also in charge of car services, including drivers and vehicle maintenance.
The Budget, Financial Monitoring and Procurement Department, made up of three units, is under the authority of a head of department who acts as treasurer of the National Assembly. He answers to the Questeurs regarding the funds placed under his authority and he is assisted by a deputy treasurer. They are both bound by strict confidentiality requirements.
― The Treasury Unit manages general and additional accounting, checks the validity and the implementation of expenses and income titles, manages tenders and covers all questions regarding income and loans.
― The Procurement Rules and Monitoring Unit is in charge of studies and implementing decisions regarding tenders, as well as any litigation that may arise.
― The Budget and Management Monitoring Unit prepares the implementation of the initial budget plan and applies any modification that may be subsequently adopted. It is tasked with implementing budgetary expenses and engagements, as well as management monitoring.
The Financial and Social Management Department is made up of 2 units:
― The Parliamentary Financial Management Unit is in charge of balancing M.P.s’ allowances. It also manages funds allocated to parliamentary secretariats and staff that are privately recruited but paid out of public funds, as well as funds allocated to political groups and to the Association of Chairmen of Political Groups.
― The Social Benefits and Salary Unit designs and implements the rules governing the National Assembly social security funds and manages all benefits decided upon. It is in charge of staffing the secretariat of the management committees of these funds. It also implements all social aid measures, covers all questions regarding family benefits and pensions as well as managing and balancing staff income and salary.
The Buildings and Heritage Department, among other tasks, manages the moveable and immovable assets of the National Assembly and assists the authorities of the Assembly in the field of project management. The Director of the department is aided in carrying out these tasks by a senior adviser who is head of unit. He, in turn, can call on his technical team for help in fulfilling the task of coordinating project management.
c) Joint Departments
In November 2010, the Personnel Department was replaced by the Human Resources Department, which manages the personnel of the National Assembly, made up of some 1,300 civil servants. The first of its three units is in charge of staff career management and training; the second unit covers matters relating to administrative affairs and labour relations; the third unit is in charge of recruitment and working conditions. This department answers to the two secretaries general.
The Information Systems Department participates in the drawing-up of the development programme concerning the computer and technological means necessary for the automated processing and transmission of information and documentation as well as for the dematerialization of administrative and legislative procedures. It has a Management Unit and Technical Poles in charge of applications, production and user support. A coordination mission deals with the conception and the creation of legislative applications and documentaries.