Tribunal de Cuentas

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Tribunal de Cuentas

On 24 August 1605 Philip III ordered establishment of a tribunal de cuentas (tribunal of accounts) in Bogotá, Lima, and Mexico City with jurisdiction over New Granada, Peru, and New Spain (Mexico), respectively. Headed by three accountants called contadores de cuentas and staffed by a host of lesser bookkeepers and copyists, the tribunal de cuentas regulated recordkeeping procedures and audited accounts kept by officials of the Real Hacienda (royal treasury) in their jurisdiction. In some regions a contador de cuentas was required to inspect treasuries (cajas) personally to ensure adherence to proper accounting procedures. At the end of an accounting period, all royal treasury officials submitted their ledgers to the tribunal for auditing. The tribunal, in turn, checked the accounts, challenged discrepancies, and then sent the books to the Contaduría of the Council of Indies in Spain.

Although theoretically the tribunal ensured honest, efficient royal record keeping in the Indies, in fact, the system broke down because tribunal contadores simply had too much to do and were virtually drowned in a sea of paper that made it impossible for them to keep up. In fact, in the late eighteenth century, some tribunals were more than twenty years behind in completing their audits.

See alsoMexico: The Colonial Period; Philip III of Spain.


Recopilación de leyes de Reynos de las Indias, 4 vols. (1681; repr. 1973), libro VIII, título I and II.

Gaspar De Escalona Agüero, Gazofilacio real del Perú, 4th ed. (1941).

Additional Bibliography

Jáuregui, Luis. The American Finances of the Spanish Empire: Royal Income and Expenditures in Colonial Mexico, Peru, and Bolivia, 1680–1809. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1998.

Klein, Herbert S. La real hacienda de Nueva España: Su administración en la época de los intendentes, 1786–1821. México: Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Facultad de Economía, 1999.

                                      John Jay TePaske