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December 12, 2012, Wednesday

What were in those reports?

President Abdullah Gül delivered a speech on the 150th anniversary of the Court of Accounts, which is responsible for auditing state institutions on behalf of Parliament and the public. He had an important message concerning the changes to the Court of Accounts Law:

“The new Court of Accounts Law was enacted in 2010. I believe it did not receive much appreciation. But it was one of the most radical reforms. For the first time, audits by the Court of Accounts were extended to cover every area of public expenditure, including civilian, military and national intelligence expenditures, as well as State Economic Enterprises [KİTs] and municipalities’ for-profit companies. This has catapulted Turkey to the level of developed countries. Therefore, we must lend full and enthusiastic support to this law. With it, cases of corruption and fraud will be minimized and public resources will be used more effectively.”

The implementation of Law no. 6085 on the Court of Accounts was delayed until 2011, meaning 132 state institutions faced a more effective audit in 2011. This reform was perhaps the most radical step taken in the history of the republic to boost democratization. But why did the president feel the need to speak out on this matter?

About a month after the president’s statements, i.e., in early July, Parliament started to deliberate on an omnibus bill into which an amendment to the law on the Court of Accounts was inserted. There were 39 articles in this omnibus bill as of the evening of July 4, but when it was passed by Parliament early the next morning, there were 95 articles. The motions by several ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) deputies for introducing changes also included amendments that considerably trimmed the auditing powers of the Court of Accounts. And sadly enough, Parliament passed it.

Possibly, the president knew about these preparations when he spoke about it a month earlier. The government had meddled with the law on the Court of Accounts before. It was very likely that Gül saw signs of a new intervention and cautioned everyone in order to prevent it.

What were the consequences of the changes introduced by the omnibus bill?

To sum it up: First, the Court of Accounts will now have to comply with the opinions of the public institutions it is auditing. Second, the Court of Accounts is stripped off its power to identify the accuracy and reliability of the financial statements of the public institutions and to assess their internal control systems. Third, the Court of Accounts will now have to prepare its reports in consultation with the audited public institutions. Fourth, the Court of Accounts is prohibited from preparing audit reports that suggest that the audited items were not found to be appropriate in terms of their necessity, proportionality, effectiveness, economy and efficiency or for similar reasons. Fifth, if it has found a transaction that conforms to the legislation in one aspect, the Court of Accounts is prohibited from finding it to “not conform to legislation” from another aspect.

All this abolished any remaining basis for the Court of Accounts to perform its auditing functions. Indeed, previously, many powers and authorities of the Court of Accounts had already been pruned; the court could still conduct certain audits based on the interpretations of its General Assembly. But the latest amendments made it virtually impossible for the Court of Accounts to audit the state apparatus.

The Court of Accounts had prepared its audit reports for the year 2011 before the supplementary articles in July came into force. But the ratification process of these audit reports was under way. The government held that the amendments to the law on the Court of Accounts should be applicable to these reports as well and these reports were sent back to the court. This means that none of the 2011 financial statements of public institutions were audited. Parliament’s session on budgeting for 2013 has recently started amid this darkness that fell on 132 public institutions.

One is urged to ask: What was in those reports?

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