Judge at the Court of Auditors Fadhila Gargouri said the court has issued more than 350 first instance decisions on offences committed by electoral lists during the 2019 legislative elections. These offences include the failure to submit the financial account.
Gargouri, who participated in a workshop held Tuesday by the Court of Auditors, in association with Al Kawakibi Institute and the National Union of Tunisian Journalists (SNJT) added with regard to the municipal elections of May 2018, the Court has issued decisions (in first instance) cancelling 80 lists that have not respected the principle of transparency.
She added that more than 30 cases concerning electoral crimes such as political advertising and illegal financing have been submitted to the judiciary between January and February 2021.
In this regard, the judge highlighted the need to review the procedures and deadlines and find mechanisms for coordination between the various branches of justice.
She recalled that the Court of Auditors has since October 2020, the date of publication of its report on the campaign of the early presidential election and the legislative elections of 2019, began the examination of the various files. It has filed lawsuits with the prosecutors of the Republic near the chambers of the Court (14).
In accordance with Articles 98, 99 and 163 of the Electoral Code, the Court of Auditors is empowered to impose sanctions for offences related to the non-deposit of the account of the candidate list, exceeding the ceiling of election expenses, illicit financing, non-compliance with commitments and obstruction of the action of the Court of Auditors.
Regarding the recommendations, Fadhila Gargouri said that the Court of Auditors recommends to separate the operations of administrative and financial control from those of judicial control of the political life.
According to her, the operation of control of the financing of the political life (parties, associations and electoral campaigns) must be entrusted to an “independent structure” which, after examination, will transfer the files of the offenders to the Court of Auditors. It is a question, thus, of allowing the judges of this jurisdiction to devote themselves to the missions which are entrusted to them.
The judge has also called for the need to review procedures and reduce court delays for better law enforcement and an efficient justice system.
She also recommended revising the regime of judicial sanctions. According to her, the offences must be punished according to their seriousness, noting that some penalties have not been provided by the law in force.
In a previous statement to TAP, the judge had indicated that the Court of Auditors has begun to make its decisions on violations recorded during the 2019 elections.
She said that the impact of the pandemic and the closure, more than once, of the courts had delayed the examination of these cases mentioned by the Court in its report.
The court classifies election offences into three groups. Offences committed during election campaigns are dealt with by the chambers under the court’s jurisdiction (10 central and 4 regional).
The second group is the responsibility of financial justice. It relates to financial transparency in the electoral process and the spending limit.
The third group falls within the competence of Judicial Justice, which is concerned with the examination of 30 cases concerning political advertising and illegal financing.
In its report, the Court of Auditors noted numerous infringements committed by candidates and candidate lists that call into question the legality of financial resources and the areas in which they were spent. The court also points to the lack of transparency in the sources of funding and undeclared money during campaigns and deplores a violation of the decree-law on political parties.
In the text of the report, the court emphasises that the violations recorded necessarily lead to the deprivation of the candidate list of the reimbursement of expenses (totally or partially).