Court of Auditors 2024 budget: MPs criticise rulings on funding for 2019 elections

At a plenary session held on Monday evening at the Bardo Palace, members of the Assembly of People’s Representatives (ARP) had the opportunity to vote on the draft budget of the Court of Auditors for the year 2024.

The vote resulted in the adoption of the draft budget by a majority of 125 votes in favour, 2 against and 4 abstentions.

As approved by the deputies in its two-part structure, the draft budget of the Court of Auditors provides for the mobilisation of commitment appropriations estimated at 33 million and 156 thousand dinars against payment appropriations amounting to 32 million and 986 thousand dinars.

The Court has been widely criticised for its decisions and rulings on the control of the financing of the 2019 election campaign.

A number of speakers described the Court’s decisions as “excessive and heavy-handed”, as they did not take into account the significant expenses incurred by candidates during the election campaign.

According to a number of MPs, the logic behind the Court’s rulings was
flawed, as the Court of Finance relied on the provisions of the 2014 Election and Referendum Law, which is “not in line with the 2022 Constitution” and does not reflect the specificities of the current “single-member constituency” electoral system.

In this regard, MP Basma Hammami (non-affiliated) pointed out that the Court of Auditors had equated individual MPs with parties receiving public funding, adding that the single-member constituency system was chosen to control election spending.

MP Abdelkader Ben Zineb (Al-Ahrar bloc) argued that the 2014 electoral law was drafted at a time when there were parties and public funding. As things stand, it is the candidate alone who bears the financial costs of his or her election campaign.

In the light of the Court’s decisions, MP Yassine Mami (National Independent bloc) warned against the risk of the Court becoming a “stumbling block” for candidates.

Responding to questions from the MPs, the First Deputy President of the Court of Auditors, Hatem Sellini, raised
the issue of the Court’s control over the electoral campaign, in particular with regard to Article 98 of the 2014 Organic Law on Elections and Referendums, which provides for the withdrawal of a candidate’s membership in the event of failure to submit the financial report or exceeding the expenditure ceiling by more than 75%.

He said that article, unlike Article 99 of the same law, does not leave any room for discretion to the financial judge, stressing that the Court of Audit is not opposed to any legislative initiative that could give the financial judge additional flexibility and discretion in determining financial offences.

He added that the Court of Auditors is facing many challenges, including, in particular, the judicial time in electoral matters, explaining that the financial judge has become accustomed to applying procedural rules that do not correspond to the specific nature of electoral disputes.

Faced with these challenges, he pointed out that the Court of Audit has repeatedly proposed the revi
sion of certain articles of the 2014 Organic Law, adding that the Court will submit to Parliament a draft aimed at shortening the time limits for responding to the conclusion of the investigation and the time limit for appeals to the Court of Cassation.

With regard to the 2019 elections, the representative of the Court of Auditors stated that the Court was coordinating with the Judicial Economic and Financial Division on the issue of suspected foreign financing, assuring that the case was currently in the hands of the magistrates of the judicial order for investigation and follow-up.

Source: Agence Tunis Afrique Presse




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