- Cour des Comptes
The Cour des Comptes (French for "Court of Accounts") is a French government
quasi-judicial bodycharged with conducting audits of most public institutions and some private institutions, including the central government, national public corporations, social security bodies (since 1950) and public services (since 1976).
The three missions of the court are the verification of the compliance of accounts; verification of management; and provision of assistance to Parliament and the government. The court checks whether accounting is in good form, and whether public funds have been well-employed. Established in 1807, it is the descendent of the Chambre des comptes de Paris of the
Ancien Régime. The Cour des Comptes is independent of the legislative and executive branches of government.
The senior judge of the "Cour des Comptes" is appointed by a decree issued by the Council of Ministers. Once appointed, the chief judge and all other judges of the court cannot be recalled. The court is assisted by a
public prosecutorwho acts as an intermediary between court and government. The court comprises seven judicial bodies, each with around 30 judges and reporters, headed by a president. The distribution of duties between the seven divisions generally follows departmental lines (e.g. finance, health and social security, etc.). The Court is headed by the first president, currently Philippe Séguin.
The "Cour des Comptes" establishes its audit program entirely independently and is vested with very broad powers of investigation. It writes a yearly public report.
It is assisted by regional jurisdictions called Chambres régionales des Comptes ("regional chambers of accounts").
In addition to reporting bad practices, the Court judges the accounting of public accountants and can
finethem for late reporting. Also, the Court fines public accountants for the exact amount of any sum of money that, due to an error on their part, they have unduly paid, or failed to recover on behalf of the state. This situation is known as "débet" (from Latin: "he owes"), and is not limited to any amount; public accountants have to buy insurancein order to face it. Often, though, the Minister of Finance ends up remitting part or total of the amount, because the public accountant would never be able to refund it.
* [http://blog-pfm.imf.org/pfmblog/2007/11/french-national.html France's National Audit Office ("Cour des Comptes"): 200 years and counting!, Article from Michel Lazare and Dominique Bouley - IMF/FAD]
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