Home >> The-science-of-finance >> Administration Of The Tax to Voluntary Aids >> Economy



§ 170. It is very desirable in the case of all private establish ments, though relatively few have attained the point, that esti mates should be made out from time to time with a view to the orderly management of the affairs of the concern. As regards the public economy, on the other hand, we have now very gen erally reached the point, so far as concerns civilized communities, that an estimate (Etat, Budget) is submitted at stated intervals and to cover a stated period of time. For the state at large the requirement of such an estimate is made by the fundamental provisions of the constitution ; for communal bodies, as part of the duties of properly constituted state officials.

So far as concerns the national finances, the participation of the body of citizens in legislative and administrative matters takes the form of an exercise of control over the regular expendi tures of the state. The voting of expenditures and revenue, the balancing of accounts by adequately covering fiscal demands, the decision as to the various kinds of fiscal means to be employed, discussions as to the urgency of different classes of demands upon the treasury, consideration of the claims of this or that demand relatively to the means available,—all these things are matters on which the tax-payers are constitutionally entitled to be heard through their representatives (Parliament, Landtag, Reichstag, Town Council, etc.).

Differences in the manner and extent of this constitutional control are therefore due to differences in the fundamental law of the particular nations. To such an extent is this true that many essentially technical features of financial administration have their character determined by political considerations rather than by considerations of expediency.

So, for example, with respect to the length of the fiscal period adopted. In view of the disproportionately great trouble involved in an annual repetition of all the labor which the estimate costs the various departments of government and the representative bodies that bear a hand in it, it is evidently desirable on grounds of expediency to extend the fiscal period beyond the limits of a single year. But there are other reasons —such as the desirabil ity of an annually recurring opportunity for the people's repre sentatives to criticise the estimates of the government, item by item—why annual estimates have as a rule continued to be pre ferred to estimates covering a longer period.

Even the time-tried example of England, the model parlia mentary government, in favor of exempting the unavoidable expenditures from the requirement of a yearly appropriation,' has so far been unable to find acceptance on the continent, evidently for constitutional and political reasons rather than for reasons of fiscal administration.

§ 171. It is obviously expedient, as a matter of financial pol icy, that the periodical estimates should be thoroughly overhauled and passed upon in due conformity to constitutional require ments, by a parliamentary body representing the country (the state, the city, etc.). The particular manner in which this func tion is performed in any commonwealth is determined by legisla tive provisions regarding the budget.

In England a considerable part of the expenditures and receipts is permanently fixed by law, answering to the permanent necessity that exists for the carrying on of the fundamental functions of the state. Only a part of the annual expenditures and receipts is variable, and is therefore made dependent upon an annual appropriation. Deliberation on the budget takes place only in a full session of the lower house ; which is different from the method usually adopted by parliamentary bodies on the con tinent, of submitting the estimates to a detailed overhauling by a budget committee and so forestalling and shortening the delib eration of the whole assembly. Latterly the English custom has

in part been adopted in Prussia, in that certain portions of the estimates are taken up forthwith and discussed by the whole house, while other and more important parts are first overhauled by the budget committee. The deliberation in the whole house secures to each member of parliament the opportunity to take part in the revision of the estimates as required by the constitu tion ; the deliberation by the committee removes the weight of responsibility to that body, probably results in a more thorough overhauling, offers better opportunity for intimate and confiden tial conference with the representatives of the government, but is at the same time clumsier and less expeditious on account of the necessity of repeating much of the discussion before the whole house.

§ 172. The submission of the estimates and the deliberation upon them in due accordance with the requirements of the law, as the normal and ordinary provision for each fiscal period, implies an exercise of control over the execution of the scheme adopted for the period in question.' This control partly concerns administrative or executive mat ters, partly it concerns the legality of items of receipt and expen diture.

For the former purpose, which, apart from a simple supervis ion of accounts, aims to secure the due execution of the admin istrative measures adopted, as well as a judicious apd economical management of receipts and expenditures, the suitable organ is a central auditing board [Ober-Rechnungsbehorde], independent of all the other departments, as well as of the department of finance. The progressive development of this sort of control is shown by the increasing independence of this board (Ober Rechnungskammer) of all the other central organs of the State. Even the absolute-monarchical state found itself obliged to give its superior courts of revision [Revisionsbehorden] an independent position beside its ministries. (So, for example, in Prussia, Fred erick William I. instituted the Ober-Rechnungskammer.) It is obvi ously for the interest of any monarch to place his ministries under the control of an independent authority which shall be responsi ble to the sovereign alone.' It may perhaps seem self-evident that the proper body to see that the measures adopted are duly carried out is the representa tive assembly itself, or a committee of the assembly. But this method, after all, is in the spirit of the feudal state [steindische Stoat] (in which the several estates really possessed such special organs of control, apparently for the purpose of defending the interests of one party against the other parties), rather than in the spirit of the modern constitutional state. It is the whole state as a unit that finds expression in the legislative act, so far as this act is established by concurrent action of the government and of the representatives of the people. And it is conformity to stat ute law that is here in question. It is therefore also appropriate that in this case jurisdiction should be left in the hands of an independent tribunal [ Verwaltungsgerichtshof]. And in view of the very close connection between these two lines of control, the most appropriate body in which to vest this controlling power will be a suitably constituted superior court of accounts [Ober Rechnungshof]. This would be a board holding the position of a supreme court of judicature and possessing the qualifications pertaining to that office, together with the resulting attitude of independence, both towards the central government and towards the representative assembly and its parties.

control, estimates, government, fiscal and adopted