The Court of Audit
The Court of Audit Examines the Administration of Public Funds
The Court of Audit provides the basis for the control activities of the National Council and is therefore sometimes referred to as a subsidiary organ of the National Council. Its remit comprises the examination of all aspects of the use of the funds made available in the budget (management of the federal budget) and the financial management of business enterprises under the control of the federal government (i.e. through a 50 per cent interest or economic or organisational controls) as well as other legal entities.
It also assists the provincial diets, examining the financial management of the individual provinces, business enterprises controlled by them and other legal entities, the financial management of communities with, in principle, more than 10.000 inhabitants and of associations of local authorities. Also within its remit are the social insurance institutions and other entities specified by law.
The term “management of the budget“ comprises all acts that have some financial effect. The Court examines the arithmetical correctness, compliance with existing regulations and the employment of thrift, efficiency and expediency of such acts.
The Court of Audit establishes its annual audit programme autonomously, but it can also be entrusted with special audits by the National Council or a provincial diet. Such audits can also be called for by a qualified minority of 20 Members of the National Council.
The Constitution grants the Court of Audit complete independence. It is not bound by any instructions even when it takes action in response to a request or demand.
Reports to the National Council and the Federal Financial Accounts
The Court of Audit keeps the National Council informed about its activities. The preliminary deliberation on the Court of Audit Reports takes place in the Court of Audit Committee.
In addition, it submits the annual Federal Financial Accounts, which present federal revenue and expenditures during the previous fiscal year and allow an assessment of whether, and in how far, the actual management of the budget tallies with the budget proposals.
The tasks of the Court of Audit also include the presentation of reports concerning the development of incomes in the public area.
By countersigning documents concerning financial debts incurred by the Federal Government the President of the Court of Audit confirms that the debts incurred comply with legal provisions and have been duly recorded in the Public Debt ledger. S/he also calculates the factor by which the remuneration of public officials is adjusted annually in line with the provisions of the Remunerations Ceiling Act.
The Court of Audit also audits and publishes the statements of accounts of the political parties. Donations to parties in excess of EUR 50,000.- have to be immediately reported to the Court of Audit and published by it. Whenever the Court of Audit suspects a violation of the provisions of the Party Act, such as faulty statements or expenditures in excess of the limits imposed on election campaign expenditures, the Court has to inform the competent authorities.
In accordance with the provisions of the Incompatibility and Transparency Act s/he receives every other year from all members of the federal and provincial governments declarations concerning their financial circumstances and reports to the President of the National Council or, as the case may be, of the Provincial Diet any extraordinary increases in the assets held by the individual in question.
The President of the Court of Audit
The Court of Audit is headed by a President, who is elected by the National Council following a proposal by its Main Committee. His/her term of office is twelve years, after the end of which period s/he cannot be re-elected. S/he can, however, at any time be voted out of office by decision of the National Council.
The President of the Court of Audit has the right to attend, and take the floor in, the National Council plenary and its competent committees and sub-committees during deliberations on Court of Audit reports and the Federal Financial Accounts. This also holds for deliberations concerning instructions to investigate certain matters and for discussions of the Court of Audit budget. Members of the National Council may also address written questions to the President of the Court of Audit.