Vatican pens new contract with global auditing firm

A view of the facade of St Peters Basilica from the Vaticans Apostolic Palace Credit Lauren Cater CNA A view of the facade of St. Peter's Basilica from the Vaticans Apostolic Palace. | Lauren Cater/CNA.

After putting a freeze on their contract with external auditor PricewaterhouseCoopers in April, the Vatican has announced a new agreement with the company, who will now serve as an aide to the Holy See's own internal auditing entity.

A June 10 statement from the Vatican said that the Holy See and PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) "have entered into a new agreement" which allows for "a broader collaboration with PwC that is adaptable to the Holy See's needs."

PwC, the statement read, "will play an assisting role and will also be available to those (departments) that wish to avail themselves of its support and consulting services."

The statement also recognized that by law, the task of performing the Vatican's financial audits belongs "to the Office of the Auditor General (URG), as is normally the case for every sovereign state."

The Auditor General is a new office established in 2014 as part of Pope Francis' sweeping reform of Vatican finances, and is responsible for carrying out the small city-state's annual audits. The office is currently headed by Italian layman Libero Milone.

Pricewaterhouse Cooper (PwC) initially made headlines when it was hired by the Secretariat for the Economy in December 2015 to audit the books of the Vatican's 120 financial departments and to check whether they had been filed according to international accountability standards.

The audit was suspended by the Secretariat of State in April with two letters signed by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin, and by his deputy, Archbishop Giovanni Angelo Becciu, claiming that proper procedures had not been correctly applied.

Some media outlets claimed the suspension was the result of an ongoing power struggle in the Vatican aimed at blocking Pope Francis' reforms.

However, the Vatican has firmly rejected this idea, saying in an April 26 communique that the problems are rather due to questions concerning "the meaning and scope of certain clauses of the contract" with PwC, as well as their methods of implementation.

The Vatican reaffirmed this in their statement Friday, stressing that the suspension "was not due to considerations regarding the integrity or the quality of PwC's work, nor is it attributable to the desire of one or more entities of the Holy See to hinder reforms."

In the time that's elapsed, the two parties have been able to examine the issues together "in an atmosphere of serene collaboration," resolving the initial concerns.

In fact, the new agreement allows all of the Holy See's offices and departments "to participate more actively in the reforms underway," the statement read.

However, the Vatican also stressed that patience is needed in terms of seeing the reforms carried out and implemented, since the process of applying international accounting standards is typically "complex and prolonged."

This process "requires a series of legislative choices as well as the adoption of administrative and accounting procedures, which are presently under development."

With the new contract in place, "the Holy See will promptly reassume its collaboration with PwC," the Vatican's statement read, stressing that the Holy See's commitment to the economic-financial audit of the city-state "has been, and remains, a priority."

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