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14 September 2012

Report on agencies (France)

Though not dealing directly with regulation, the 2012 report of the French Conseil d'Etat on Agencies is well worth perusing for its conceptual and operational contribution to the understanding of the workings of a modern state, and how to improve public governance. The high administrative jurisdiction, which is an adviser to Government as a well as the supreme court for administrative litigation, sets out to define a doctrine for the use of agencies, which did not previously exist in the French legal order or literature. It takes stock of the situation, where a variety of legal statuses cover the many forms in which public authorities seek to introduce some managerial flexibility otherwise lacking in traditional administrations. It shows that contrary to expectations, the French administrative scenery is quite as pragmatic, when it comes to making the best use fof public resources, as other countries.
Seeking to define the scope of the use of agencies, the report finds that they are best identified by a degree of autonomy (not independence) and "structuring responsibility" for public policies. They must be distinguished from other resembling types of authorities such as "independent (economic) regulators" (called in French independent administrative authorities) and "operators" which is a budgetary concept where the entity lacks the structuring responsibility. There are in France some 103 agencies, employing 8% of public officials.
The report concludes with 25 recommendations for making the best use of this form of public service, most of which contain lessons certainly useful in many other countries.

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