French law – Local agents of the state administration

Title 2 – The State Administration

Chapter 1 – Central Administration

Chapter 2 – Local agents of the State administration

Section 1 – The prefect

The prefect was created by the law of 28 Pluviôse of the year VIII in the following terms: “The prefect alone will be in charge of the administration.”

In the meantime, the prefect has also become the executive body of the department and some prefects have powers over several departments, the regional prefects. The decree of 16 February 2010 gives the regional prefect authority over the departmental prefect.

Since the law of March 2, 1982, the presidents of the general and regional councils are now the executive bodies of the department and the region, not the prefects.

Appointment of the prefect

The prefect is appointed by decree of the President of the Republic in the Council of Ministers: they come from sub-prefects (former civil administrators or marks) or civil administrators for 4/5 of them.

A decree of February 16, 2009, eases the rules for the appointment and career progression of prefects.

The prefect is subordinate to the ministers and must be loyal to the government.

Mission of the Prefect

The prefect is a representative of the State as set out in the decree of 14 March 1964, a delegate of the government.

The prefect’s task is thus to:

  • represent the State at most official ceremonies
  • to ensure the legal representation in the conventional relations
  • to inform the government, and vice versa, the population
  • ensure the proper use of his powers with regard to the general police force
  • triggering the Orsec outline (management of disasters with outdated means)
  • to appoint certain jobs

These powers were reinforced in 2004 by a decree dated April 29.

The prefect“directs the services of the State in the department, subject to the exceptions listed exhaustively by a decree of the Council of State” as stated in the law of March 2, 1982.

His powers in economic matters were also extended by the same law.

The prefect is also the beneficiary of a deconcentration law dated February 6, 1992: this law reduces the competences of the central administrations, leaving them only with missions that are exclusively national in nature.

The prefect has lost the role of guardianship over local authorities since the law of 2 March 1982. The simple administrative control that the prefect can exercise must go through the administrative court and the regional audit chamber.

Section 2 – The prefect’s supporters

The prefect is supported by a cabinet for political or confidential matters. This cabinet is headed by the chief of staff.

The secretary general of the prefecture is the head of an office, which, in a symmetrical manner to the ministerial organization, assists the prefect in the preparation and execution of decisions.

The sub-prefects, appointed at the head of each district, are entrusted with specific missions. They assist the prefect in matters of animation and information. They ensure that laws and public order are respected, coordinate the action of the State services in their district, and have a role of administrative supervision and control. (decree of 29 April 2004)

→ Title 3 – Local authorities > Chapter 1 – State – Local authorities’ relations

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