Judgment of accounts
The Regional Court of Auditors verifies, examines and judges, within the limits of its jurisdiction, the accounts of local authorities and their groupings as well as those of public establishments under their supervision.
Local authorities and their groups produce their accounts annually in the RCA concerned, their accounts and supporting documents for revenue and expenditure on quarterly basis.
The accountants of the other organizations subject to the control of the RCAs must produce an annual accounting statement retracing the revenue, expenditure and cash transactions while the supporting documents can be consulted on site.
The investigation procedure is similar to that followed by the Court of Auditors. The Reporting Counselor, after completing his investigations, draws up two reports.
The first deals with the results of the examination of the account and raises, if necessary, observations on facts that may affect the responsibility, especially of the authorizing officer, the controller or the accountant in jurisdictional matters of the Regional Court.
The second takes up the observations on the management of local authority, the group, the company or the public establishment concerned and which relate to the competence of the Regional Court in terms of management control.
The first report is submitted to a Counselor counter-reporter appointed by the President of the Regional Court. The Counselor counter-reporter must within one month give his opinion on the first report and send it to the King’s Attorney at the Regional Court who returns it, together with his conclusions, to the President of the Regional Court for inclusion in the hearings schedule.
The Regional Court rules on results in closed sessions after examining the report, the answers of the accountant, the opinion of the counter-reporter and the conclusions of the Kings Attorney.
The formation of the court is made up of five magistrates, including the President. It is decided by a majority vote.
If the Regional Court does not find any irregularity, it rules on the account by a final judgment. When it establishes the existence of irregularities, it enjoins the accountant by a provisional judgment to produce in writing its justifications or to pay back the sums which it declares as being due to the public body concerned within a period of three months.
The Regional Court rules with a final judgment within a period not exceeding one year since the date of the provisional judgment.
The final judgment establishes whether the public accountant is cleared, in advance, or in debit.
It should be noted that, like the Court of Auditors, bridges are established between the Judgment of accounts, budgetary and financial discipline, de facto management and disciplinary action.
De facto management
In addition to its jurisdiction over the clearance and judgment of accounts, the Regional Audit Office has jurisdiction over any person who, without being authorized to do so by the competent authority, carries out operations involving revenue, expenditure, holding and handling of funds or assets belonging to a public body or involving funds or assets not belonging to the said bodies, but which the public accountants are exclusively responsible for executing by virtue of the laws and regulations in force.
Operations that may constitute de facto management are referred to the Public Prosecutor, on his own initiative, or at the request of the Minister of the Interior, the Minister of Finance, the legal representative of the local authority concerned or the public accountants.
When the Regional Court declares a person to be a de facto accountant, it enjoins him or her to produce the account within a period of time that it sets, which may not be less than two months. From then on, the clearance and judgment of the accounts produced by the de facto accountants follow the same procedure as that applied to the patent public accountants.
The de facto accountant, if not subject to criminal prosecution, may be fined according to the extent and duration of the holding or handling of funds and assets, without the amount of the fine exceeding the total of the sums wrongly held or handled.
Budgetary and financial discipline
The Regional Courts of Audit exercise a jurisdictional function in matters of budgetary and financial discipline, with respect to any official, civil servant or agent of the local authorities and their groupings, as well as of the companies and public establishments under their supervision.
The matter is referred to the Regional Court by the Public Prosecutor, on his own initiative or at the request of its President. The Minister of the Interior or the Minister of Finance may also refer cases to the Regional Court through the intermediary of the Public Prosecutor and on the basis of control or inspection reports supported by supporting documents.
Following the example of the Court of Audit and in order to better understand responsibilities, offences relating to the rules of execution of revenues, expenditures or management of public assets, have been individualized at the level of the three main participants in the process of execution of public financial operations, namely: authorizing officers, controllers and accountants.
The amount of the fine that punishes the offences committed can reach a maximum of the equivalent of one year’s net salary per offence. In case of cumulative fines, this amount may not exceed the equivalent of four years of net remuneration.
In addition to the fines that the Regional Courts of Audit may impose on convicted persons, the Code empowers these Courts to order the reimbursement of sums that they declare to be due to the public bodies concerned.
Finally, it should be noted that the legislator has established bridges between budgetary and financial discipline and the exercise of criminal and disciplinary action.