The Court of Accounts claims since 2002 that the autonomous communities approve a legal framework that allows to act with more autonomy to the Social Councils, which are the ones that supervise the audits of the universities. In such a way that Intervention -the body of control and supervision- does not depend on management but on the councils themselves. That is, that the auditee is not subordinated to the auditee. But only three of the fifty universities, Las Palmas, Tenerife and Oviedo, have this model, according to the council and the court, because they have ruled their regional laws.
"Interventions always have a very unpleasant role, which is to make objections. And this activity can be developed if you are outside the system, "says Ignacio Villaverde, secretary of the council of Oviedo, one of the universities with this independent body of the rectorship. "You can control with the guarantee that nobody is going to touch or cheat you. And it allows you to have a more objective, impartial and effective control. " He gives an example: "You can follow certain movements that you might not see if you do not access the information first hand".
"It's as if the president of a stock exchange company audits himself. What value does it have? Relative, "says Raimundo Baroja, president of the Tenerife council. "I do not understand how universities have been allowed. We by law have to ensure efficiency in management, but that is a chapter that has not been developed because it is more controversial. We would have to analyze academic results, indicators … and at the moment we do not. " In the new law of universities that the Ministry of Science, Innovation and Universities works with the rectors, the councils claim to play that role in management.
"Accountability systems are not working," says Antonio Abril, president of social councils. Each council is made up of entrepreneurs, unions, cultural figures, the rector, the manager and a student and teacher. Its president is elected by the regional government. "The sensation that I have – and that they transmit to me – is that nobody has a real interest in us being really organs of control and supervision," says Abril, general secretary of the giant Inditex and president of the council of A Coruña. "Because if, when they make a regional norm, the councils do not appear is that they do not support us … In addition, evidently, the rectors want control to be minimal
The Social Councils demand more prominence and surveillance of the accounts of the universities, and these regret that the councils do not attract private funds for the campuses, especially after the budgetary cut of the years of crisis (they lost 15% from 2008 to 2014) . The author of the recent book Financing of the public university in times of crisis. The social councils, Javier Fernández, who works at the Universidad Complutense, states: "In its more than 30 years of existence, the Social Councils have played a small role in attracting resources for their universities, when this competence is clearly contained in the law."
Vicente Gotor, then rector of the University of Oviedo, responded in 2014 when asked about the financing of the campus: "We have not found many open doors, a lot of patronage. This is one of the functions that the Social Council should perform, but it does not do it. Neither the Social Council of the University of Oviedo nor almost none in Spain. There are rare exceptions. "
At the other extreme, the rectors demand more flexibility in their work and the ministry is willing to grant it but under strict control of public money. José María Sanz, former director of the Autonomous University of Madrid and now deputy vice president of the rectors' conference (CRUE), says: "The university improves with organs such as those that exist or slightly different, but gain in confidence and transparency. If you put the same people in different places and coordinate things differently, will things improve? It probably does not happen. Or people are chosen differently and with different conditions and disposition, or the thing does not change ".
"The functions that we are recognized are minimal," continues Abril. The council has to approve the budgets of the university so that they can go ahead, the accounts once these are executed and the creation of new titles. However, rarely does it put a dent in the management of the rectorship. It does not make noise.
Faced with April's complaints about the precariousness of the councils, there are self-critical voices such as that of Ángel Tristán, president of the Las Palmas council, one of the campuses with the model recommended by the Court of Auditors. Speaking at a recent congress of social councils in Gran Canaria – to which this newspaper was invited – said: "There is forced inactivity in different degrees, as the social councils can not or will not fully develop supervisory and advisory functions. entrusted to them by the law of Universities. " Tristan argues that due to this inactivity has not been achieved "excellence, competitiveness and professionalization in university management." He has placed in the hands of the justice a possible irregularity in a center of his university.
After the scandal of case master in the Rey Juan Carlos University, his advice he refused in June to approve the economic memory of the campus by some "irregularidad "and three of its directors -among them Adolfo Suárez Illana- have just resigned for "professional and personal" reasons.
As a result of what happened in King Juan Carlos, the Social Councils – with criminal and patrimonial responsibility for what they sign – have begun to feel unprotected. "I understand your uneasiness," said Javier Medina, lawyer of the Court of Accounts. "We know the growing concern about the problems that have arisen in the organization of the universities and also the shortcomings of the current regulations," said Medina.