Court of Auditors (Spain): History
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Subjects: Political Science

The Tribunal de Cuentas (Court of Auditors) is the supreme governmental accounting body of Spain responsible of the comptrolling of the public accounts and the auditing of the accountancy of the political parties, in accordance with the Constitution and its Organic Law. The Court of Auditors is composed by the President and 12 counsellors. The Counsellors are appointed by the Cortes Generales, six of them by the Congress and the other six by the Senate. To be appointed Counsellor of the Court it is needed to be a person with knowledge in audit, judge, prosecutor, university teacher or a public servant in an office that requieres superior studies, lawyer, economist or trade profesor, all of them with recognized experience and with fifteen years of professional activity. The Court Account Counselors are independent and irremovable. Their term is 9 years.

  • university teacher
  • accountancy
  • counsellor

1. History

The very first origins of the Court they go back to the Reign of John II of Castile. Álvaro de Luna, Constable of Castile, advise the King to approve a royal order to make easy the tax collection due to the difficulties in the collection of taxes and in the ordering of the accounts. This royal order is approved in July 2, 1437 which regulated the Senior Accountants, a group of civil servants in charge of resolve economic conflicts and to reclame the money that was not paid in time.

During the reign of Isabella and Ferdinand, new ordinances were granted on January 9, 1478, to put an end to the backlog of outstanding accounts since 1454, in the Crown of Castile. The Accountancy has the exclusive and absolute authority to claim, censor and fail all the accounts of the public officials that handle flows and effects. The Senior Accountants are given the responsibility of reviewing them, those taken and completed, as well as determining and judging the scope of accounts. They are also authorized to proceed against any person or Council, and allow them to act on behalf of the Kings.

In the last years of the reign of King Charles I, on July 10, 1554, new royal orders were granted in Valladolid for the Senior Accountants. They increase the number of accountants and the amount of the Room's right (it was a duty of the citizents of give a room to the King's servants during their stay in town). It is also the first time that it is included in a judicial process of accounts, when accounts considered extraordinary, or with some amendment, the obligation to take an oath to the people who have had them in charge, about the veracity of the confused data.

In the reign of Philip II, the Senior Accountants are helped by lawyers that advise them and the Treasury Council is created. In 1593, a new reform in the accounting system provokes that the King's Council lose its powers in accounting and these are given to the Council of the Treasury and incompatibilities are created for the Senior Accountants, that cannot have another job at the same time.

In 1605 were created the Court of Auditors of the Indies in Mexico, Bogotá and Santa Fe to control the accounts of the Spanish territories in Americas.

The Constitution of 1812, passed by the Cortes of Cadiz, provided for the creation of an Accounting Office"to examine all accounts of public funds". In 1828, the ordinance establishing the Highest Court of Auditors was approved, which was in force until 1851. In 1828, the ordinance establishing the Highest Court of Auditors was approved, which was in force until 1851.

During the regime established in the Constitution of 1845, a series of major reforms were carried out in the financial administration of the State and the Organic Act of the Court of Auditors, 1851 was approved, which is the seed of the current institution, with responsibility for the financial control of Public Administration.

In 1870, a new Law on Organization of the Court of Auditors of the Kingdom was approved and was in force until the Supreme Court of the Treasury was established in 1924, which integrated both external and internal control functions of the public sector.

The Court of Auditors of the Republic was established in the Constitution of 1931 as the supreme audit body of the economic and management in the public sector and its Organic Act was approved in 1934.

Rules for adapting the institution to the political regime in force became established later. A Law on Organization, Functions and Procedures of the Court of Auditors of the Kingdom was approved in 1953, amended in 1961, in which the Court of Auditors was defined as the supreme external audit body of the State, with the function of reporting to the Head of State and the courts of the result of its audit activity and the recognition of a genuine judicial function.

The current Court of Auditors is configured at present by the Constitution of 1978 as the supreme audit body of the economic and management in the public sector, which is independent from the executive power and is directly linked to the Spanish Parliament.[1]

2. Structure

The Court of Auditors is formed by the President, the Plenary, the Management Board, the Audit Section, the Prosecution Section, the Audit Counsellors, the Court of Auditors Prosecutor's Office and the General Secretariat.[2]

2.1. President

The President is the head of the Court. The President represents the court, convenes and chairs the Plenum and the Management Board, oversees the personnel of the Court and is the body in charge of recruitment and control the budget.

2.2. Plenum

The Plenum, in general, deals with the audit function and proposes the approach to conflicts affecting the competences or powers of the Court of Auditors to Parliament. It also gives resolutions against the provisions and acts of other organs of the Court in the performance of governmental or staff-related functions.

The Plenum is composed of twelve Audit Counsellors (one of whom shall be the President) and the Chief Prosecutorof the Court of Auditors. The Secretary-General acts as secretary of the Plenum, with voice but without vote, and writes the minutes, reflecting the outcome of the deliberations and resolutions adopted.

The Plenum will meet at least once c month, except in the holiday period of August, as well as the extraordinary calls made by the President with justified cause, or upon request of three members of the Plenum. The quorum to validly constitute the meetings shall be two thirds of its members and their resolutions shall be adopted by a majority of participants, except in cases where the law requires a qualified majority.

The discussions of the Plenum are confidential, must be kept secret by attendees and all those who could know them by reason of their duties.

2.3. Management Board

The management board in general, sets the working conditions of the Court, exercises disciplinary powers in cases of gross misconduct, distributes cases between Sections and appoints delegates instructors.

The management board is composed of the President of the Court of Auditors and the Presidents of the Audit and Prosecution Sections. The Secretary-General acts as Secretary of the Management Board, with the right to speak but not to vote.

2.4. Audit Section

It is the body of the Court of Auditors assigned the functions of verifying the accounts of public sector entities, reviewing and auditing of the accounts subject to audit, examination of the audit procedures conducted in the various departments and making proposals to the Plenum regarding the results of the audit procedures (report, motion or memo) taken to the Spanish Parliament.

The Audit Section is organized into eight departments: five sectoral departments, which are aligned, as far as possible, with the large areas of the financial-economic activity in the public sector; two territorial departments, one of which audits economic and financial activity of the Autonomous Regions and Autonomous Cities and another for local entities and a department of Political Parties.

The section consists of seven Audit Counsellors appointed by the audit departments. One of them is also the President of the Audit Section.

2.5. Prosecution Section

It is the jurisdictional body of the Court. Among its functions are prepare the Summary of the court proceedings during the relevant financial year and make an appropriate proposal to the Plenum, submit to the Plenum the amendments to be made to the structure of the Section, as well as creating new rooms when the number of cases so require and laying the criteria on the basis of which case-allocation is decided among the Rooms and Counsellors of the Prosecution Section.

The Prosecution Section comprises the President and the Audit Counsellors, aware of court proceedings as first instance bodies or attached to the Courtroom or Courtrooms.

2.6. Court of Auditors Prosecutor's Office

The Court of Auditors Prosecutor's Office functionally reports to the Attorney General and is composed of the Chief Prosecutor (member of the Plenum of the Court), and the Prosecuting Attorneys. The Prosecutor of the Court of Auditors is appointed by the Government.

The Court of Auditors Prosecutors’ Office is responsible for being heard in audit procedures before final approval and issue its opinion on the General State Accounts and the other reports, memoranda, motions and memos of the Court of Auditors, being able to request the adoption of the measures that it deems appropriate in order to assign liability for the financial responsibilities that may result; take notice of all the audit procedures and court proceedings being dealt with in the Court of Auditors for the purpose of clarifying the possible financial liabilities arising from them and bringing an action for accounting liability and deducting the claims of this nature in the repayment for debtor balance proceedings and in the auditing of accounts.

2.7. General Secretariat

The General Secretariat performs the functions leading to the proper exercise of governmental powers of the President of the Court, the Plenum and the Management Board in all matters relating to the Court of Auditors the internal system.

The General Secretariat is vested with the powers of management, processing, documentation and registration of matters within the competence of the President, the Plenum and the Management Board. The Secretary-General acts as Secretary of the Plenum and the Management Board, with the right to speak but not to vote.

The content is sourced from:


  1. The Institution and its background. Spain: Tribunal de Cuentas. pp. 2–14. 
  2. "Organic Law 2/1982, of May 12, of the Court of Auditors." (in es). 
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