The avalanche of criticism that has rained down on Spain's public accounts auditing tribunal, the Court of Accounts, as a result of the multi-million euro quantities it has demanded from those responsible for the Catalan government's foreign policy during the independence process, has led to a surprising and irritated response from the institution through an "explanatory note".
In the text, the tribunal explains that it is a constitutional organ and states that it "enjoys full independence in the exercise of its functions, subject only to the legal system."
No appeal possible
"The audit reports are approved by the full Court of Accounts and cannot be modified by other instances, or appealed," advises the note, assuring that the audit is carried out in accordance with international standards and parameters. In addition, it adds, the Court also exercises a jurisdictional function aimed at passing judgement on accounting responsibilities in order to secure the restitution of public funds in cases where there has been misuse of them.
It is due to this function that the auditing body has ordered payment of 5.4 million euros from 40 former senior figures and public servants in the Catalan government whom it accuses of misuse of public funds by allocating part of its budget to the external promotion of the independence process between 2011 and 2017. The full details of the accusations were presented to defendants on Tuesday and lawyers had three hours to read the 500 pages of the report and 10 minutes to put arguments to the tribunal, all of which were rejected. This morning it was the Supreme Court that rejected an appeal against the Court of Accounts over an earlier case against the Catalan government on pro-independence spending, filed by Artur Mas, Joana Ortega and Francesc Homs.
Accusations of nepotism
The note also clarifies that the councillors of the institution (who are not judges) are elected by super-majorities - three-fifths of the full Congress and Senate - and are "independent and unremovable" in accordance with the Constitution. It does not, however, mention the difficulties which have occurred in the renovation of the body.
It also comes out in defence of the staff of the organization, against whom accusations of nepotism have been made ever since a 2014 report in the newspaper El País noted that two cousins of the current tribunal president, Maria José de la Fuente, were on the staff, as well as the wife, brother and sister of the current number two, Javier Medina.
In response to these allegations, the Court states that its employees are "highly qualified professionals, who have acceded to the Court through the procedures for admission to the civil service provided for by law."
In fact, the Court's 12 councilors include former PM José María Aznar's brother and a minister in his government, Margarita Mariscal de Ghent, who was responsible for the report on Catalan government spending on foreign policy. The Spanish prime minister himself, Pedro Sánchez, told the La Sexta TV network today that "this is an anachronism".