(Translation for information only)
The Court of Audit consists of two chambers.
Each chamber consists of a president, four councillors and a secretary general.
They are appointed every six years by the House of Representatives, which may dismiss them at any time. The members of the Court of Audit are entitled to a retirement pension when they have reached the age of seventy or when they cannot fulfil their function properly because of serious and permanent infirmity.
The first president appointed is known as the senior president and the first secretary appointed is known as the senior secretary general.
The presidents and councillors are at least 30 years of age.
The secretaries general are at least 25 years of age ; they enjoy no voting right.
To be nominated a member of the Court of Audit, the appointee should hold a higher education degree that is taken into consideration for senior positions (level 1) in government departments.
The retirement pension of the members of the Court of Audit is paid on the basis of the last five years of tenure as fixed in accordance with the provisions of paragraph 4 of this article, in proportion of one thirtieth by year of service as a member of the Court of Audit, but provided their tenure in that capacity lasted at least twelve years. A sixty-eight years old member whose term is not renewed can apply to the House of Representatives to get the additional thirtieth.
The members' services that are not governed by the previous paragraph but qualify for the State pension are reckoned in accordance with the laws governing retirement pensions as to these service years.
If a member of the Court of Audit has been recognised as unable to continue fulfilling his office because he is impaired by infirmity but has not reached the age required by article 1, he is entitled to a retirement pension regardless of his age.
However, if his office is ancillary, the retirement pension he will receive as a result of his infirmity may only be granted after ten years of service eligible for a retirement pension or after five years of tenure as a member of the Court. The pension is paid on the basis of the average remuneration of the last five years in accordance with the system governing retirement pensions paid out by the state. The King shall define the ancillary office as meant by this law.
No retirement pension of the members of the Court of Audit shall exceed nine tenth of the average remuneration of the last five years.
The basic law on civil retirement pensions remains applicable in cases for which the provisions of this article do not apply.
The members of the Court of Audit may neither be relatives or relatives by marriage up to the fourth degree nor be relatives or relatives by marriage up to a degree similar to a minister, as the head of a government department when they are first nominated.
They may not be a member of either of the legislative assemblies or hold a position for which they would receive remuneration or an allowance paid out of the State funds, or else be directly or indirectly involved or employed in a company or business accountable to the State.
They may not deliberate on matters in which they would have a personal interest or in which their relatives or relatives by marriage up to the fourth degree would have an interest.
It is prohibited for any member of the Court of Audit to exercise on his own or under the name of his wife or through any other trustee any kind of trading activity or be a trade agent or participate in the management or the running of a commercial or industrial business.
A majority of Court members are required to be present when accounts are approved or closed.
The Court of Audit is responsible for auditing the general and budget accounts of the various government departments.
It approves the general accounts of the various government departments and is responsible for examining and validating the accounts of all public accounting officers.
It looks into the legality and regularity of the State revenue and expenditure.
The House of Representatives may entrust the Court with audits on legality and regularity of some expenditure programmes as well as with financial audits in the departments and bodies subject to the Court's jurisdiction.
The Court of Audit has permanent access to real-time budget items for both commitments and payments.
It ensures that no budget expenditure item is exceeded and that no transfer occurs. It informs the House of Representatives without delay of any violation of the budget legislation.
Operations related to fixing and collecting of ascertained dues owed to the State and the provinces, including tax revenue, fall within the general inspection competence of the Court of Audit. The way this control should be performed is defined in a protocol agreement between the minister of Finance and the Court of Audit.
The Court of Audit performs ex-post reviews of the sound administration of public resources ; it ensures they were used in compliance with the principles of economy, effectiveness and efficiency.
The House of Representatives may entrust the Court of Audit with management audits in the departments and bodies subject to the Court's jurisdiction.
The Court of Audit’s mission also includes informing the House of Representatives on budgetary and accounting matters.
The accounts of the public bodies created by the State or falling under its remit are submitted to the Court of Audit.
In the absence of a specific derogation adopted by law, the Court of Audit shall exercise over these public bodies the powers and controls as defined in § 1.
It may publish their accounts in its annual catalogue of observations.
The Court of Audit is entitled to request at any time all documents and information, of any nature whatsoever, as it may necessary for carrying out any audit with regard to the management or the budgetary and accounting processes of government departments and public bodies subject to its jurisdiction pursuant to Article 5 or may consider valuable/relevant to the pursuit of its mission.
The Court of Audit may perform on-the-spot checks in the departments and bodies subject to its jurisdiction.
The responsible authority is required to reply to the Court of Audit's observations within one month. The Court may extend this time limit.
The Court of Audit is responsible for managing, publishing and verifying the lists of mandates and the assets declarations referred to in Articles 2 and 3 of the general and special law of 2 May 1995 on the requirement to file a list of mandates, functions and occupations and a declaration of assets.
The Court of Audit imposes administrative sanctions on those who do not comply with the above-mentioned laws and their implementation (entry into force: 1/1/2019).
The Court of Audit corresponds directly with the competent government ministers.
The public accounting officers of the State and provinces submit their accounts to the Court of Audit annually as well as when they leave office, and in the event of a deficit.
If a public accounting officer fails to submit his account within the time limit stated by the competent department or if he deceased without submitting his account, the department draws it up of its own motion.
The Court approves the accounts of the public accounting officers of the State and the provinces. This task is performed in each chamber by a councillor designated by the Senior President or by the President according to the circumstances. The Court of Audit establishes whether the accounts are in balance or whether the balance is in the accounting officer’s favour or in the State's favour.
In the first two cases, it grants them discharge and orders the repayment to them of the guarantees and, where appropriate, the removal of any lien attachment and the cancellation of any mortgage claim on their property in connection with their management.
Under all circumstances, the Court of Audit immediately reports to the government department or the executive of the provincial council involved.
If the accounting officer's account shows a deficit, the minister or the executive of the provincial council shall decide whether to try the officer before the Court of Audit for the repayment of the deficit.
The government department mentioned above may not refrain from suing the public accounting officer whose account shows a deficit unless it is of the opinion that he can invoke circumstances beyond his control or if the deficit does not exceed an amount stipulated by the King.
If the department refrains from suing an accounting officer, it reports to the Court by way of a written notice in which it substantiates its reasons and provides all supporting documentation. In its annual catalogue of observations to the Houses, the Court notifies the cases for which the government departments did not use their right to sue the accounting officers to repay the deficits.
The accounting officer is entitled to dispute the amount approved, which shows a balance in the State's favour.
The Court of Audit orders the accounting officer to clear the deficit if it considers that he is guilty of serious misconduct or negligence, or has committed a recurrent slight mistake that facilitated or enabled the occurrence of the deficit. It may, however, on the basis of specific circumstances and, inter alia, the seriousness of the failure of the accounting officer to carry out his duties, impose him to pay only part of the deficit.
The accounting officer shall be granted a final discharge if a sentence has not been passed within five years after he left office.
A writ of summons is served on the accounting officer. He should appear before the Court within a fortnight. If the accounting officer has no place of residence or domicile or specified address in Belgium, the time limit is extended in accordance with article 55 of the Judiciary Code.
The summons contains the provisions mentioned in articles 43 and 702 of the Judiciary code. It is served in pursuance of articles 32 to 47 of the Judiciary Code.
The summons issued orders the accounting officer to appear before the French or the Dutch chamber, in respect of the language used by the service to which the accounting officer belongs or the language for which the accounting officer involved opted in the service to which he belongs when it is assumed to use more than one language in its internal operation, in pursuance of the laws governing the use of languages in administrative matters, co-ordinated on 18th July 1966.
If the accounting officer belongs to a service that is part of the German-speaking Community or a public service institution subject to that Community, he is summoned before either the French or the Dutch chamber. He is entitled to the assistance of an interpreter, whose expenses shall be defrayed out of moneys provided by the Treasury, unless he applies to be tried in the other chamber. This exception should be raised before any defence action regarding the substance and ahead of any other exception.
The summoning government department submits the file to the Court Registrar’s Office, where the parties and their lawyers have the right to examine the files between the day of the summons and the day before the appearance before the Court.
A majority of the members of a chamber, secretary general excluded, should be present to investigate and rule on a case. Only the members attending the whole investigation process are allowed to take part in the ruling. If the action is conducted against a public accounting officer, the member of the Court who approved the account is not allowed to sit.
The prosecuting party is represented by a lawyer or an official whom it appoints specially for that purpose.
The accounting officer appears personally. He may be assisted by a lawyer. The Court can allow the summoned party to be represented by a lawyer when he cannot attend personally.
The parties may file a written statement.
The hearings are open to the public. The Court of Audit, however, may decide by a motivated ruling that it will sit in camera because public proceedings might be detrimental to order or morality or for any other reason as stipulated in article 6, paragraph 1, of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (4 November 1950), ratified by the law of 13 May 1955.
The Court can initiate an expert report with a view to settling a pending dispute. Articles 962 to 988 and 990 of the Judiciary Code apply to it.
If case an investigation is required, the Court orders that it should be carried out, either during the hearings or by one of its members. The Court may order that the witnesses be heard under oath. In that case, they will take the following oath:
"I swear in honour and conscience to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth".
(in French, Dutch or German).
Witnesses are summoned by registered mail. All persons summoned as witnesses in pursuance of this article shall have to appear and meet the requirements of the summons. Any person who would refuse to appear, take the oath or make a statement is liable to a fine between twenty-six and a hundred Belgian euros.
A report on the non-appearance or the refusal to take the oath shall be drawn up and forwarded to the public prosecutor in the district where the witness was supposed to be heard.
The provisions of the Penal Code pertaining to perjury in civil matters and bribing of witnesses are applicable to the inquiry proceedings defined in this article.
A member of the Court who would have taken part in an investigation outside the hearings is not allowed to take part in the further ruling on the case.
If the party summoned does not appear, the case is judged by default. The party sentenced by default may appeal against it. The time limit for appealing is one month of serving of the ruling. If the failing party has no place of residence or domicile or specified address in Belgium, the time limit is extended in accordance with article 55 of the Judiciary Code.
The appeal is served by a writ specifying the basis of the claim and containing the summon to appear before the Court.
The appealing party who has been judged a second time by default is no more allowed to appeal.
If the public accounting officer deceases before the summons is served or the case is heard, the proceedings are initiated or carried on against his beneficiaries. For the assumptions mentioned in article 815 of the Judiciary Code, articles 815 to 819 of this Code are applicable.
The rulings of the Court are reasoned. They are delivered in public. They are enforceable. They award the costs against the losing party. In the rulings with preliminary investigation, the "costs are reserved". These are calculated in the same way as in a civil court. Articles 1018 to 1022 and 1024 of the Judiciary Code are applicable.
The rulings of the Court may be referred to the Court of Cassation by any of the parties for breach of law or for violation on a point of law or of substance or prescribed under penalty of nullity. Articles 1073 to 1116 of the Judiciary Code, article 1110 excepted, are applicable to the appeal and to the proceedings conducted before the Court of Cassation.
When a ruling of the Court is overturned by the Court of Cassation, the case will be referred to an ad hoc committee made up of members of the House of Representatives, and whose ruling is final, in accordance with the form stipulated for the Court of Audit.
Notwithstanding the fact that the Court would already have approved an account or would have definitively sentenced a public accounting officer, it may, within a period of five years from the date the account was approved or the ruling was passed, review the account or the ruling, either at the request of the public accounting officer, on the basis of supporting documents recovered since the date the account was approved or the ruling was passed, or at the request of the government department under which the accounting officer falls or fell, as a result of errors, omissions or redundant entry uncovered during the audit of other accounts.
Any account that would have been approved after the production of documents found to be false may be subject to a review, even after the time limit mentioned above has expired.
If the review of the approved account shows a deficit, the department under which the accounting officer falls or fell may summon him before the Court in accordance with article 8.
No debenture or conversion will have effect unless they are approved by the Court of Audit.
The Court of Audit may appoint and dismiss his staff.
The rules of procedure of the Court of Audit may only be amended with the approval of the House of Representatives.
The Court of Audit's detailed budget proposals and accounts based on a budgetary and accounting layout comparable to the one used by the House of Representatives is submitted for approval to the House of Representatives, which also reviews the budget implementation. The total amount of the budget appropriations is recorded as a special allocation in the general expenditure budget of the State.
The law of 30 December 1830 and the law of 14 June 1845 are hereby repealed.