What exactly is the “official residence system”?
The “official residence system” is a housing system for officials, which has been widely adopted in western countries and has been implemented for many years.
The official residence is the residence provided by the state for officials of a certain level during their term of office, and the officials themselves have no property rights. Such as the White House in the United States, the Elysee Palace in France, No. 10 Downing Street in the United Kingdom, and the Kremlin in Russia are all typical official residences.
Corresponding to the official residence is naturally the private residence. Of course, official residences are different from private residences. Most official residences are free to stay, even if the payment is symbolic. Private residences are private property purchased by officials in the market just like ordinary people.
The official residence system of various countries has several common features: 1. The official residence system strictly distinguishes the official residence of officials from private residences, and only the right of residence is provided, and individuals have no property rights, that is, the nature of the official residence cannot be changed; It is basically owned by the state, or rented by the state, and the internal facilities are configured according to the regulations, and the cost is borne by the state. In addition, many countries stipulate that officials’ housing, salary and other treatment must be open and transparent, accept social supervision, and establish strict error correction mechanisms to prevent senior government officials from seeking housing privileges.
There are three specific situations in which public officials in European and American countries can provide housing: one is to provide housing to government ministerial officials and political figures such as congressmen and heads of public departments; places, or need reliable housing due to security issues; third, those who have difficulty obtaining ideal housing due to salary or position reasons. At the same time, once these personnel leave public office, they will no longer continue to use the housing provided by the state.
How to design the official residence system in western countries?
U.S. law stipulates that the government should provide official residences to elected federal, state, and city officials, such as the president, vice president, governor, deputy governor, and mayor. For security reasons, the president, vice president, governor, and deputy governor must live in the official residence, and the mayor can choose to voluntarily give up the right to live in the official residence and purchase a residence for himself. Take the mayor of Los Angeles as an example. The first mayor to live in the mansion was Bradley. After he left office in 1993, the next two mayors chose not to live in the mansion. One of the mayors preferred his own private residence, while the wife of the other wanted to be close to her children.
In the United States, the purchase, daily use and maintenance of official residences at all levels are covered by the government budget, and the occupants only need to pay a symbolic rent of US$1 per year. The housing rental allowance subsidy system is implemented for federal and state elected members (including the Senate and House of Representatives). The principle of the subsidy is based on “decent and comfortable”, and the specific amount is determined by the Financial Committee of the Parliament. The current Vice President Biden did not choose to live in Washington when he was a congressman. Instead, he took an 80-minute train from Delaware to work every day.
Germany began to implement the official residence system very early. The specific name of the system is “Regulations on Official Residences, Moving Subsidies, Daily Travel Subsidies and Travel Subsidies for Members of the German Federal Government”. Some official residences are owned by the Federation, and some are rented housing by the Federation. The objects of the official residence system in Germany are mainly serving senior civil servants, including the prime minister and ministers of the federal government. According to regulations, the German Federal Chancellor must have a furnished official residence. After the federal minister obtains the residence of the official residence, he can purchase furniture according to the existing financial level as the supporting facilities of the official residence.
The German government is responsible for the maintenance and other aspects of the residence. The scope of maintenance is clearly stated, including: cleaning the chimney; cleaning and waxing the floors of social rooms; maintenance, planting and lighting costs of gardens and greenhouses. All the maintenance costs of the official residence are included in a family subsidy for officials and will not be paid separately.
However, German officials are not “cold” about the official residence. Since becoming chancellor in 2005, Merkel has refused to move into the Chancellor’s residence, but still lives in an apartment opposite the Museum Island in the Mitte district of central Berlin. German President Gauck and his “first girlfriend” are also reluctant to move to Bellevue Palace. It was only later that the German president decided to move to the presidential villa in Durham, Berlin, as their neighbors suffered from “presidential security”.
France also implemented the official residence system earlier. The specific name of the system is “Public Officials’ Housing System”. This system stipulates that the president, prime minister, and speaker of the parliament above the minister level must have official residences. According to French law, housing size and payment standards are determined according to job needs and status. As a minister or above, you can generally enjoy completely free office housing. The standard is for a family of 1 to 2 people to live in a 3-room suite, 3 people to live in a 4-room suite, and 4 to 5 people to live in a 5-room suite. The housing fee exceeds the standard area. Must be borne by me. After Hollande was elected president, 23 of the current government’s 38 ministers lived in official housing, while other ministers said they would rather live in their own private residences.
Local officials in Germany basically buy houses on their own. The higher the position, the more preferential policies they enjoy. For example, according to the different ranks and family sizes of officials, they can receive “family allowances”; subsidies for relocation caused by job turnover; additional subsidies if the residence is far away from the office; lower housing insurance costs, etc.
The official residence system in Russia is different from that in European and American countries. In addition to the Kremlin as the official residence of the Russian president, the president also has 3 sets of official residences, distributed in Sochi, Moscow Region and other places. The official residence of the Russian Prime Minister is now No. 9 Gorky on the outskirts of Moscow, and leaders of other states and autonomous republics have official residences. Many official residences in Russia are similar to those in the United States, some are historic sites, some are holiday villas in fields or seaside. Take the official residence of the governor of Sverdlovsk State as an example. It is a small two-story building located in the city center. It was built in the early 19th century and is a Russian federal cultural heritage. The small building is built on the banks of the Iset River, with beautiful scenery. The various decorations inside the building are also magnificent.
For the needs of vacations and banquets for state guests, there are also a certain number of non-leader exclusive official residences scattered around the country, which are provided for the use of more prestigious social activists. In addition, the local chiefs all have official residences, but they are all used as office locations, and their residences are not provided by the national government.
Can the official residence system effectively prevent housing corruption?
Can the implementation of the official residence system effectively prevent corruption in official housing?
In Western capitalist society, the official residence system links positions with housing, forming an “iron official residence with flowing water for officials”. Officials live in office when they take office and leave when they step down. Capital provision (such as serving as an executive in a large company). The implementation of official residence system in western society is relatively simple and easy. Overall, the official residence system can effectively prevent housing corruption. Western official residences have very complete functions, which can not only avoid excessive welfare of officials, but also reduce expenditure and save resources, and facilitate the flow of officials.
In the West, many countries have established sound public supervision mechanisms and government supervision mechanisms to strictly investigate all kinds of official housing corruption such as power-seeking housing. Official housing, salaries and other treatment must be open and transparent, and the maximum housing area standards are also strictly limited.
During Sarkozy’s tenure as French president, a ministerial secretary of state gave his official residence to non-immediate relatives, and another minister owned two official residences, one of which was for his adult daughter. Exposure of these incidents has led France to strengthen relevant laws restricting the official housing of senior ministers.
When Raffarin was Prime Minister of France in 2005, the Minister of Economy, Finance and Industry Gaymar and his wife and their eight children lived in a 600-square-meter mansion provided by the state and located in a prime location in Paris. The state paid 14,400 euros per month. They rented out their large suites in Paris to make money. After the incident was exposed, Gemar was forced to resign due to violation of regulations, which caused huge repercussions in France. Raffarin then stipulated that the minister’s housing should not exceed 80 square meters. For each additional child in the minister’s family, the housing area can be expanded by 20 square meters. The exceeding standard area should be borne by himself.
In the United States, mansions are considered government property, down to their furniture. The official residence does not allow officials to lease it to others, and it is not even allowed to bring a large number of relatives into the official residence. Generally speaking, the government will have “supervisors” and “auditors” to record the situation in the official residence, including who lives in the official residence, and to report officials who improperly use the official residence. In addition, the public can also report officials who illegally use official residences. If an official wants to take the official residence as his own, it is tantamount to “stealing” government property. Once the “auditor” finds out, he will be fined, expelled and other punishments waiting for him.
What exactly is the “official residence system”?