The regional and territorial chambers of accounts (RTCAs) are independent courts that rule on the accounts of public accountants, examine management and audit the budget operations of regional authorities and their public institutions. Since 1982, the rules of RTCAs have been amended and adjusted by a significant amount of legislation aimed at extending their competence and strengthening their proceedings.
They thus ensure the correctness and quality of local public management, check that regional authority finances are balanced and that local accounts are reliable. They have extensive powers to inform the public as well as to compel correction of irregularities and the adjustment of management errors. In this way they contribute to the transparency of public management.
- Court review
The fundamental duty of financial courts is to judge the accounts of public accountants to ensure compliance with the rules of performance for income and expenditure and the principle of separation of authorising officers and accountants. The RTCAs hands down legal rulings (verdicts or orders) on the accounts presented to them. Accountants may be held personally and financially liable by the regional court in a number of instances:
- If a deficit or missing funds have been noted ;
- If income has not been recovered ;
- If an expense has been improperly paid ;
- If the public body has had to compensate a third party because of the public accountant
- Management review
The RTCAs review the management of regional authorities and bodies within their remit (article L. 211-8 of the Financial Courts Code). Audits are undertaken either on the initiative of the CRC as part of its annual audit programme, or at the request of the local authority of the prefect. They examine each of the following aspects, in order :
- Correctness, i.e. compliance with the law on expenditure and public contributions
- Economical use of public funds
- Effective use
- Auditing of budget transactions
The prefect may refer the budgetary situation of a local authority or public institution to the Cour. The Cour provides its expertise as an independent authority and expresses opinions.
- Cour des comptes – RTCAs joint investigations
The RTCAs often work with the Cour des comptes. They take part in thematic investigations on a very wide variety of subjects. Usually, this work leads to the publication of public thematic reports.
Since 2012, there have been 15 regional chambers of accounts in Metropolitan France, plus the regional chambers of accounts in Guadeloupe, Guiana, Martinique, La Réunion and Mayotte, as well as the territorial chambers of accounts in New Caledonia, French Polynesia, Saint Barthélemy, Saint Martin and Saint Pierre and Miquelon.
Since 1982, when they were set up, the ties between the Cour des comptes and RTCAs have been continually strengthened. Part of their work is published in the Cour des comptes’ annual public report. Another aspect of this relates to the public thematic reports. These are the result of their investigations, usually in liaison with the Cour des comptes. RTCAs contribute to the evaluation of public policies and the way these are implemented locally. The First President of the Cour des comptes chairs the council chamber. The heads of RTCAs are Cour magistrates. The General Prosecutor at the Cour heads up the network of financial prosecutors for the RTCAs. The Cour hears appeals referred from RTCAs. A permanent inspection mission for RTCAs is chaired by a Cour magistrate. The Cour manages budget resources and the personnel of the RTCAs.
- Their locations