Thursday, October 28

Settlements of accounts in the most unknown and opaque court | Spain

Facade of the Court of Accounts, in Madrid.
Facade of the Court of Accounts, in Madrid.Jaime Villanueva

The Court of Accounts is not “an anachronism”, which is the scenario in which the Prime Minister, Pedro Sánchez, placed it last week, but it is certainly a peculiar body, quite opaque and unknown, led by political advisers who live in their own world. Alien and uncomfortable as they are now in the front line of fire. The millionaire sanction to the Catalan independence leaders, at a key moment in the legislature, has catapulted the supervisory body to the center of the partisan target, just when its nine-year term ends and the PP rejects the renewal. PSOE, Podemos and their nationalist allies will wait for the resources of the ongoing judicial process to end to propose changes that modernize the institution.

The liquidation act with the sanction imposed of 5.4 million euros on a group of 40 former leaders and former senior officials of the Generalitat of Catalonia, including former presidents and several councilors, has caused spokesmen for ERC, Junts, PDeCAT, the CUP and Podemos have accused the Court of Accounts of being an “arbitrary, repressive and political institution” of the State. And even from the PSOE they have been singled out for “paving the way” for the reunion agenda, in which President Sánchez is absolutely committed.

The head of the executive branch described as irrational “anachronism” that the leader of the PP, Pablo Casado, now refuses to negotiate and blocks the renewal of that court and questioned whether she is still a former PP minister and counselor, Margarita Mariscal de Gante, the that he is going to dictate the sentence on that case, after the file prepared before by an instructor of the house.

Mariscal, former Minister of Justice of the first Government of José María Aznar, has been one of the 12 councilors of political affiliation of the Court since 2012, when Mariano Rajoy and the socialist Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba resolved the leadership of that body in a very different situation. Then the distribution favored the PP, with seven councilors, and five were appointed by the PSOE. In these nine years of mandate that formally end on July 23, many things have changed. One of the progressive councilors, Lluís Armet, left the institution and has not been replaced. And of the other four progressives, two, María Dolores Genaro and María Antonia Lozano, were then recommended by the former president of the Junta de Andalucía José Antonio Griñán, later indicted for the ERE case and withdrawn from any influence. Proof that court times follow other rhythms.

That PSOE in the opposition did not pay much attention to the election of the Court in 2012, but the PP of Aznar still did. Rajoy ruled, but Aznar had verified how the supervisory body had sought the returns since 2010 at an expense of 2.3 million euros for the frustrated promotion of the concession to the former popular president of the gold medal of the US Congress. The Court finally closed the case in 2011, but Aznar took care to promote Mariscal, his brother Manuel and Ángel Algarra, former director of the CEU, among the seven nominated popular councilors. And there they continue.

Ramón Álvarez de Miranda then came out as president of the organization, from a lifelong popular family. Neither Mariscal nor Manuel Aznar wanted to expose themselves so much with that position, although the former minister led the negotiations and had the syndicated vote of her entire group in contact with the PP leadership. But Álvarez de Miranda also did not hold out the entire term in the face of pressure from the PP ranks, according to internal court sources. In 2018 she left the post and was promoted to head the María José de la Fuente institution, an official of the body of lawyers of the supervisory body since 1993 without public projection but the daughter of a regular in Genoa 13, the headquarters of the PP, and with two cousins ​​in the institution, María Asunción and María Eugenia de la Fuente Asprón, daughters of the former Francoist minister Licinio de la Fuente.

The inbreeding charge and certain privileges have historically dogged the court. The agency now has 780 officials, who pass their oppositions and perfectly regulated entrance exams. There are hardly any temporary staff, with some very rare cases of executive secretaries. But there is a tradition of family sagas, daughters, brothers, ex-partners, who attend better-paid positions than in any other department of the Administration. Court employees are paid around 30% more than their level in other Ministries. The 12 councilors of political origin receive around 120,000 euros in salary, they have an official car and driver, but they are not used to such direct pressures as they are now.

Neither court officials nor most of the councilors have welcomed the president’s statements, placing them as one of the focuses of the problem to be resolved with Catalonia, according to various sources consulted by EL PAÍS in the body. Neither the current president nor Mariscal wanted to offer their version of the delicate moment to this newspaper. But this past Friday, from the court an unusual public note of self-defense was issued against what they considered as attacks and attempts at political interference, approved by the three current components of the conservative sector in its Government commission, but without consulting with the others. counselors.

The future of the court’s operation is now in question. The PSOE and its partners would like changes. Not as much as those pointed out by the pro-independence parties in the method of electing councilors, which require three-fifths of the Cortes (210 seats and therefore alliances between the main parties), as in the first place in the current sense of their political origin more in line with the current distribution of the legislative chambers. The PP refuses to review this now, as has happened for two and a half years to modify the members of the General Council of the Judiciary. The counselors of the court have already convened for another of their monthly plenary sessions for Thursday, July 29, out of mandate, and with their responsibilities extended.

The noise of this controversial policy on the legitimacy of the body has buried other pending debates in court. Internal sources and experts consulted point out some possible improvements never addressed: the clarification and origin of its jurisdictional function in addition to the examination; the decrease in the number of its 12 political advisers now that they already coexist with autonomous chambers of accounts and their rejuvenation; the reduction of their nine-year terms; his election with a real parliamentary examination; the appointment of the president from a shortlist of applicants and require a more professional profile of the candidates with a higher level of experience. Nowadays, to be a director, it is only required to be a civil servant with 15 years of seniority, but nothing is specified about in which positions and of what relevance.

The PSOE in the Government has listened to the nationalist demands to modify that court and has not considered them appropriate now. The Lawyers Office and the State Prosecutor’s Office, promoters in their day of the investigation for misuse of sanctioned public money, have already concluded their work and will not reissue new accusations. The Socialists will wait for the defendants to translate their internal judicial resources and take them to the Supreme Court before promoting any reform. That could take more than a year. And both the president and his top leaders will denounce in the meantime the obstructionist attitude of Pablo Casado and the PP in all constitutional bodies.

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