The threat of the Court of Auditors
Politics 13/07/2021

ERC presents an inquiry commission on Court of Auditors in Spanish parliament

Socialists believe fund is legal but want judicial reassurance before backing it

3 min
The leader of Esquerra Republicana in Congress, Gabriel Rufian, in the debate on pardons last Wednesday.

Madrid / BarcelonaDuring weeks the legal services of the Generalitat worked to devise a mechanism to deal with the million-euro bonds the Court of Auditors has imposed and, finally, after an intense negotiation between Esquerra and Junts, the minister of Economy, Jaume Giró, presented a complementary risk fund last Tuesday to act as guarantor for the current and former officials indicted by the Court of Auditors. A week later, the risk of it being challenged in the Constitutional Court is decreasing, whereas pressure on the Court of Auditors is increasing: the leader of the PSC, Salvador Illa, believes the decree conforms to legality. On the other hand, Esquerra will present a petition in the Spanish parliament for a new inquiry on the Court's alleged irregularities.

As ARA has learnt, ERC are "leading" a proposal in which the following points are to be discussed: the Court of Auditors policy for hiring staff and its compatibility with "independence and impartiality"; the "political" nature of the accusations directed against the pro-independence movement; the procedural guarantees in accordance with the European Convention on Human Rights, or those responsible for not having investigated other irregularities that do not have to do with sovereignty.

Esquerra put forward this proposal a few weeks after En Comú-Podem spokesperson in the Spanish parliament Jaume Asens announced similar measures, which are yet to materialise. Now ERC hopes to receive the support of En Comú in their request, as well as the rest of the pro-independence parties and the parties that voted in the current government. It remains to be seen what the PSOE does at this point, whether it aligns itself with the PP or backs the inquiry.

Illa's position

The fact that the socialists don't seem keen to have the Constitutional Court rule on the fund is key. Only if the Spanish governments challenges the decree would it be automatically suspended, until there is a court sentence. If the appeal coes from other parties - both Ciudadanos and the PP have announced they will appeal - the decree stands until the court rules. This difference would allow the indicted to profit from the fund when posting their bails.

"I am convinced that the Spanish Government will not challenge the decree," Catalan president Pere Aragonès said this afternoon after meeting with Andorra's prime minister, Xavier Espot. "It is legally sound," he added.

ICF: guarantee and counter-guarantee?

Last week, after the presentation of the complementary risk fund, two things were left to resolve: its economic endowment and the banking entity that would act as a guarantor at the time of paying the bonds at the Court of Auditors or in any other case. Well, this Tuesday the executive council has given the €10m transfer the green light.

As for the bank, the government spokeswoman, Patricia Plaja, has admitted that it has not yet been decided and explained that, as provided for in the decree law, if not found before July 21, an alternative mechanism would be enabled. The Government states that while the fund is not officially created and there is no bank willing to participate in the operation, the Catalan Institute of Finance (ICF) will be in charge.

It should be remembered that in the initial scheme there were two players: the bank, who was meant to provide a guarantee to the Court of Auditors to pay the bonds; while the ICF would act as a counter-guarantor to the bank.

Beyond the case of the Court of Auditors, yesterday in an interview on RAC1 the Minister of Economy, Jaume Giró, said that the fund is not only intended for this particular case but also for others. As he said, it is an instrument for "restoring a space of freedom to continue doing politics without fear that our house or pension might be seized without having been heard, nor found guilty". In this sense, ex minister Santi Vila could also be eligible for the case of the Villanueva de Sigena artworks, in which his ouse was used as security for the bail.

According to the decree law the Generalitat passed -and that has to be validated by Parliament in the next month-, all current and former Generalitat officials whose sentence is not final, against whom the Catalan Government has not brought judicial nor administrative proceedings and whose case is not covered by any other insurance policy contracted by the Generalitat can request assistance from this fund.

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