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Cour des comptes


The Cour des Comptes is the supreme body for auditing the use of public funds in France. It is independent from the Government and Parliament. It has financial jurisdiction and is in charge of auditing, issuing rulings and certifying the State and Social Security accounts, as well as contributing to the evaluation of public policies.

Presentation Our values : Independence,  fair hearing and collective responsibility
Four missions : judge, control, evaluation and certification
The Court’s organisation

Presentation Our values : Independence,  fair hearing and collective responsibility

These rules and principles ensure quality and impartiality. Although they are not specific to the Cour des Comptes, they are not exact copies of what exists in other national institutions, either. Consequently, they may be legitimately presented as our distinctives.

  • Independence

As the supreme body for financial control, the Cour des Comptes must be independent, in accordance with the requirements of good governance ratified by the UN in 2011. This independence is based on its status as a court, which has been the case since it was founded in 1807, as declared by the Constitutional Council in its decision dated 25 July 2001 on the constitutional bylaw on finance acts concerning its freedom of programming. This was
reinforced when the Cour des Comptes became self-governing – a recent change taking effect when the institution was placed in charge of certifying the state’s accounts. This made it inappropriate for it to continue to be managed by the Ministry of Finance, which produces these accounts. The independence of the institution also arises from the independence of its members, who are permanent magistrates. Their statutory guarantees have been reinforced since 2006. These are supplemented by a code of practice which also applies to non magistrate inspection staff – rapporteurs, experts and assistants. This independence results from legislation governing the level of recruitment, methods of appointment, promotion and pay. It is also a state of mind and practice: in this respect, the independence of the Cour des Comptes is firmly established in custom thanks to its prestige and long-standing existence.

  • Fair hearing

The audi alteram partem aspect of the procedure is a general principle in legal proceedings, established by the European Convention of Human Rights. The law makes this rule apply to all the procedures of the Cour. This simple idea is however very complex in its application. Methods of applying it have changed considerably over the years, with a succession of reforms. Balance is always sought between the obligation to hear the point of view of the person being investigated and the need to conduct an inspection within a reasonable timeframe. To be relevant, the Cour must be able to express itself clearly without taking too long in its investigative work.

The Cour des Comptes' medal
  •    Collective responsibility

Collective responsibility is an important principle in how the Cour operates, even though it is not a general procedural principle in French law. Auditing is individual, but rulings in general are collegial. Although the magistrate investigates “for the prosecution and for the defence”, they simply suggest what outcome their observations should lead to and whether there may be legal or non-legal consequences. Rulings are made collectively, helping to eliminate personal preferences; moreover, each person’s position is covered by the confidentiality of proceedings. Collective responsibility is often highlighted and can sometimes be misunderstood. It is however necessary for the legitimacy and credibility of the Cour.

Four missions : judge, control, evaluation and certification

The Cour des Comptes ensures the proper, efficient and effective use of public funds. To fulfil its missions, as specified and extended in article 47-2 of the Constitution, the Cour des Comptes assesses, audits, evaluates and certifies.

  • The Cour des Comptes judges the public managers

On January 1, 2023, a reform has introduced a unified system of financial liability for public managers.

Public managers are now subject to a single liability regime, and may be brought before a single chamber - the Cour des Comptes' Litigation Chamber - to hear and rule on cases. This chamber is made up equally of magistrates from the Cour de Comptes and the Regional and Territorial Chambers of Accounts (RTCAs).

Prior to litigation, the chambers will step up their regularity checks to identify facts that may be subject to referral. A Financial Court of Appeal has been set up, chaired by the First President of the Cour des Comptes and made up of members of the Cour des Comptes and the Conseil d’État, as well as qualified personalities. The last level of jurisdiction, appeals on points of law will be heard by the Conseil d’État. Fines will only be imposed for serious errors, particularly those causing financial damage.
Purely formal, inconsequential errors will no longer be prosecuted by this jurisdiction.

  • The Cour audits the proper use of public funds

The Cour des comptes ensures the correct, efficient and effective use of public funds.

Proper use (regularity) : the Cour des Comptes controls the conformity of management actions with legislation and regulations (including EC legislation and regulations).

Efficient use : the Cour des Comptes ensures that the relationship between activities and the related resources used or mobilised is as good as possible.

Effective use : the Cour des Comptes checks that the results obtained by public action comply with the stated objectives.

  • The Cour des Comptes helps evaluate public policies

The Cour des Comptes exercises these controls either across the board for a public policy, or for specific bodies. When these policies are conducted both nationally and locally, it conducts joint enquiries with the Regional and Territorial Chambers of Accounts (RTCAs). In 2011, the procedure for Parliament referring matters to the court was clarified.

  •    Certification

Far from being a solely technical matter, certification is a new field of competence and intervention for the Cour des Comptes. The final objective is to provide the public with a sure source of clearer, more comprehensible financial and accounting information and a more transparent picture of the financial reality of the State and Social Security.

  • Assistance to the Government and Parliament

The Cour des Comptes is called upon to audit and advise the Government and assist Parliament. This mission was reinforced and extended by the LOLF, the Constitutional bylaw on acts relating to Social Security financing and the 2008 constitution revision. In 2011, a law specified the Court's assistance to Parliament in the evaluation of policies.

The Court’s organisation

The First President presides over the Cour des Comptes. A secretary general and two assistant secretary generals operate under the President’s authority, appointed by decree following the President’s proposal, and they lead the departments. The Cour des Comptes is composed of seven Chambers and has a General Prosecutor's Office.

In 2022, 807 people were employed by the Cour des Comptes. There are magistrates and other auditing staff, including private sector experts, as well as civil servants assigned to help with auditing and administrative management.

The magistrates of the Cour des Comptes are appointed by decree of the President of the Republic :
- a decree issued via the Council of Ministers for the First President, General Prosecutor, heads of Chambers and chief auditors ;
- a standard decree for senior and junior auditors, as well as for the secretary General, assistant secretary generals and public prosecutors.


The work of the Cour des Comptes follows four principles that guarantee the quality and impartiality of its observations: independence (in the programming and conduct of audits and the choice of action to be undertaken subsequently), collegiality and the adversarial procedure.

  • The auditing procedure

Magistrates carry out their audit based on documents and on-site investigations. The audited party has the right to give their point of view on the provisional document supplied to them by the court.

    Notification of audited parties

The head of the Cour des Comptes concerned by the audit signs and dispatches a "notification of the commencement of an audit" to the direct head of the department or body to be audited. This announces the scope of the audit, the names of the members of the auditing team and the probable schedule for it to be conducted.

    Start-of-audit meeting

The audit team members meet the managers and inform them of the topics and procedures for the audit and how it will fit in with any other audits in progress.

    Investigation based on documents andon site

Rapporteurs have very extensive investigative rights. They proceed with the investigation based on accounting and administrative documents from the organisation, answers to their questionnaires and, where applicable, answers provided by the accountant. They conduct investigations on site. Next, the rapporteurs record their observations and proposals regarding planned actions arising from the audit, in a document entitled “investigation report”: this is examined by the court.

    End-of-investigation meeting

The members of the audit team present the managers of the audited entity with their main observations (facts and analysis). At this stage, only the audit team is involved, and not the Cour.

    The first deliberation : collective

The investigation report is presented during a court session. The head of court presents the findings of the Prosecutor’s office, the rapporteur shares their proposals, and these are approved or rejected by the counter-rapporteur. The collegial body decides on any action to be taken.

    The draft audit observations (ROP)

This confidential document, specified in article R.141-8 of the Financial Courts Code, is sent by the head of court to the audited manager (with a copy to supervisory authorities, if applicable). In these observations the Cour des Comptes goes over all or some of the observations and analysis of the rapporteur. If it implicates third parties, the Cour des Comptes sends them the excerpts pertaining to them. The covering letter states the response deadline; this must be at least one month. In certain cases, draft audit observations may be deemed unnecessary. In this case the Cour des Comptes directly establishes its definitive course of action in the first deliberation.

    The hearing

The Cour des Comptes may decide to hold a hearing for the managers. If so, the head of Court informs them of the chosen date and may also indicate specific points for which the Cour des Comptes is seeking further explanations. In certain cases (and particularly in the event of publication), the managers audited have the right to a hearing. Furthermore the Cour des Comptes must offer them the right to a hearing if it envisages the publication of certain observations pursuant to the audit, or communicating these to Parliament, as is the case for interim reports to ministers.

    Second collective deliberation

This second deliberation (which may if necessary be followed by one or more further collective deliberations), takes place in the same manner as the first one. It enables the administrative course of action to be defined, i.e. communication with respect to this audit by the Cour des Comptes.

 For more information, please refer to « Institutional relations » and the status report