Besides advising on the budget, the Court of Audit performs financial audits, legality and regularity audits and examines the sound use of public funds. It checks the income and expenses of the Federal State, the Communities, the Regions, public service institutions depending on them and the provinces. The outcome of those audit activities are regularly reported to the legislative assemblies and the provincial councils.
The Court of Audit is also entrusted with a jurisdictional task towards the public accounting officers whose accounts are in deficit.
Finally, the Court carries out specific tasks of good governance (lists of mandates and declarations of assets filed by political representatives and senior officials, advice on financial reporting by the political parties and the campaign expenditure), as well as tasks regarding the distribution of resources between the Communities and Regions (school students counting, personal income tax honesty) and expertise (budgetary impact of bills, accounts of institutions which receive an appropriation).
As a budgetary advisor, the Court of Audit reviews the draft budgets – the initial budgets as well as the adjustments - filed by governments in the legislative assemblies. The Court provides comments before the drafts are voted on.
The Court of Audit reviews the draft budgets in accordance with its fundamental principles for draft budget review.
The Federal State, the Communities, the Regions, the public services depending on them and the provinces report annually on the use of public funds they are entrusted with.
The accounts are transmitted to the Court, which verifies or certifies them according to the provisions in force. Through its financial audit, the Court checks the reliability, the accuracy and the completeness of the financial statements, especially by examining the conformity of the accounting transactions with the public accounting legislation.
The Court of Audit also checks the accounts of the public accounting officers, i.e. the representatives of the executive branch in charge of collecting or paying the public funds. In the event that the account of an accounting officer shows a deficit, the Court might have to carry out its jurisdictional task.
Legality and regularity audit
The Court of Audit performs a legality and regularity audit on the public income and expenses. It checks their conformity with the budget (whether the credits are sufficient, or the operations are correctly charged, etc.) and ensures that the other legal rules applicable to the operations under review (e.g. standards for public procurement contracts, granting and using the subsidies, recruiting staff members, etc.) are correctly implemented.
Audit of the sound use of public funds
The audit of the sound use of public funds means that the Court of Audit examines whether the implementation of public policies (healthcare, justice, employment, taxation, education, agriculture, tourism, etc.) meets the principles of sound management in the light of the economy, effectiveness and efficiency criteria.
- The economy audit assesses whether the financial, human and material resources used have qualitatively and quantitatively been acquired at the right moments and at the lowest cost.
- The effectiveness audit assesses the extent to which the stated goals and objectives have been attained.
- The efficiency audit assesses the ratio between the resources used and the output. In other words, it ensures that the financial, human and material resources are implemented for optimal results.
In order to grant the appropriations asked by the executive power with full knowledge of the facts and to be able to assess their use, adequate and impartial information should be provided to the legislative body. The Court informs the legislative assemblies and the provincial councils of the results of its audits by means of its annual Books and specific reports [link to the bottom of the page “Tasks and powers”].
The Court’s Books and reports are discussed in committees of the assemblies and in the presence of Court’s representatives.
Although the assemblies are the first to receive the Books and reports, these documents give rise to a press release and their full text is then made available on the Court’s website.
Within its jurisdictional function, the Court of Audit assesses the liability of public accounting officers when their management leads to a deficit.
If it appears to be so, the relevant minister has to summon the accounting officer to appear before the Court. He can only refrain from suing him/her if the accounting officer can plead circumstances beyond his/her control (“force majeure”) or it the deficit does not exceed the amount of 1,250 euro set by Royal Decree.
At the end of a public and adversarial procedure, the Court discharges the accounting officer if it concludes that there is no deficit. Otherwise, the Court sentences the accounting officer to reimburse the deficit if it finds he/she committed a grave error or omission, or committed repeatedly a slight error, which facilitated or caused the deficit to happen. After examining all circumstances, especially the seriousness of the accounting officer’s failure to fulfil his/her obligations, the Court may also decide to sentence him/her to merely reimburse a part of the deficit. Finally, the Court of Audit will discharge the accounting officer if it finds that the accounting officer did not cause the deficit by committing any of the errors listed.
The rulings can be referred to the High Court (la Cour de Cassation, het Hof van Cassatie). If the judgement of the Court of Audit is rescinded, the case will be referred to an appropriate “ad hoc” committee made up of members of the legislative assembly.
Pursuant to the institutional reforms of 1989, the Court of Audit has been entrusted with a series of specific tasks as regards the distribution of resources between the federated entities. It verifies the school students’ counts by the French and Flemish Communities in order to determine how to distribute the attributed part of the VAT between the said Communities. To avoid tax competition between the Regions, the Court also has to give advice and information on the fiscal autonomy of the Regions concerning the personal income tax.
Besides, the Court carries out tasks of good governance. Concerning the limitation and control on election expenses, the Court provides the legislative assemblies concerned with advice on the accuracy and comprehensiveness of the reports about the expenditures made by the candidates and the political parties. As regards the financing of political parties, the Court advises the Federal Parliament on the annual accounts of political parties. It performs also a series of tasks ranging from review and filing to publication concerning the lists of mandates and the declaration of assets that certain categories of political representatives and senior officials must file in the Registry office of the Court.
The Court of Audit reviews the accounts of certain endowment – entitled institutions and, from 2024, also the accounts of the House of Representatives, the Senate, and the parliaments of the Walloon Region and the French Community. The Court already audited the accounts of the Flemish Parliament, the Parliament of the Brussels-Capital Region and the Parliament of the German-speaking Community.
The House of Representatives may also ask the Court to give advice on the financial and budgetary impact of bills.