The Office of the Hungarian National Assembly
The National Assembly, the officers, the House Committee, the committees and, in defined duties, the MPs are aided in their work by the Office of the National Assembly. In addition, it also runs a faction office for each of the five party factions with a staff size that corresponds to the number of MPs in each faction. The Act on Members' Remuneration makes it possible, furthermore, for every MP to take on staff. The Speaker, the committees and the factions can also employ experts.
Prior to the regime change, the Office of the National Assembly largely dealt with financial and technical matters. There was no requirement for well qualified experts to assist the work of the National Assembly since Parliament had no political weight and held sittings very seldom. The past 19 years have seen the development of an organisation divided into separately managed parts with the necessary professional resources to assist the National Assembly in its operation and to carry out its new and increasing duties as it provides support for the legislative process. The most important tasks for the Office of the National Assembly are set down by the Standing Orders, while its tasks and organisational structure are laid down in more detail in the Rules of Organisation and Operation. The Office, a functioning organisation of the National Assembly, is divided into various organisational units: the Office of the Secretary General, the Department of Business Affairs, the Speaker's Cabinet, the Office for Foreign Relations, the Press Service and the Library of the National Assembly. (For further details, see the organisational chart for the Office of the National Assembly in the appendix.)
The work of the Office is under the direction of the Speaker either through the heads of the individual administrative units or directly. The Speaker appoints the heads of the offices, the Secretary General, the Director General for Business Affairs, and the heads of the Office for Foreign Relations, the Speaker's Cabinet and the Press Office as well as the Director General of the Library of the National Assembly and all their deputies. The House Committee interviews candidates beforehand and expresses its opinion.
The Office of the National Assembly has 618 employees. There are 226 more people on staff at the faction offices. The 385 college-educated staffmembers at the Office have graduate degrees in law or economics or undergraduate degrees in public administration management. There are 233 civil servants with certificates of final examination, 212 so-called public service employees and 14 administrative staff. The majority of staff have significant experience of public administration, including parliamentary experience.
A wide range of professionals work side by side at the Office of the National Assembly. Lawyers, economists and public administration managers plan and organise the seamless operation of sittings of the plenary, House Committee and other committees. Lawyers with experience in codification assist in the legislative work of the National Assembly as well as in the committee activities tied to EU legislation.
Specialists deal with foreign affairs, parliamentary media activities and ties with civil society organisations; these include media specialists and foreign affairs and protocol experts experienced in international and EU affairs. Staff at the Department of Business Affairs include building engineers who organise the maintenance and renovation of the Parliament building as well as cabinetmakers, upholsterers, tinsmiths and bricklayers who can meet any special requirements with their master crafts. Parliamentary shorthand writers have garnered fame for winning first and other top prizes in world championships and international competitions. Skilled economists and financial specialists carry out tasks tied to budget management at the National Assembly. IT specialists and engineers operate and develop the e-Parliament IT system. The Office also includes the staff of the prestigious Library of the National Assembly, who, in addition to conventional library services, assist MPs in their work with an increasing range of information and research services. And indeed it is the parliamentary tour guides that most visitors know personally. After all, Parliament is Hungary's most popular tourist site.
Among civil servants working in the Office of the National Assembly, ever increasing stress has been laid on the requirement in the Civil Servants Act that civil servants should carry out their work in a manner befitting their office, with impartiality and under no one's influence.
In 2002, the Speaker established an award of distinction for those who have served the public and the National Assembly, with which our colleagues are acknowledged on civil servants day every year for their outstanding work in the Office.
The majority of the staff at the Office improve their knowledge with further training, language exams, specialization exams, and second degrees. Many of the leaders and staff are teachers or hold lectures at universities and colleges as well as professional conferences, write and edit books, and publish in journals.
In addition to the Speaker, the Office is also mindful of secondary school pupils and university students gaining as thorough as possible an understanding of the National Assembly. Our colleagues organise Parliamentary Private Lessons, Parliamentary Practice at the National Assembly and other special events and competitions. For example, since 2002, as part of a grant programme, nearly 100 university students (in law, economics, political science and public administration management) have had the opportunity to observe the work of the National Assembly for one year from close up and have taken part in its work.