The Ministry of Defence has not purchased the necessary equipment for the Chemical Army. It has not even completed the construction of the Těchonín Biological Protection Centre

PRESS RELEASE ON AUDIT NO 23/03 – 26 February 2024

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) did not ensure the necessary renewal and modernisation of the Czech Armed Forces’ (CAF) chemical equipment in 2018-2022. Of the 12 planned projects, only three were implemented, including one only partially. For example, the MoD did not purchase chemical spraying vehicles, decontamination equipment, vehicles for the collection of hazardous substances or chemical protection suits. As a consequence, due to its limited capabilities, the Chemical Army cannot comprehensively support the activities of the CAF combat units. In addition, it is also only partially meeting some of the objectives of NATO force capability building, despite the MoD's commitment to meet them. This has been shown by an audit of the Supreme Audit Office (SAO) focused on funds allocated for radiation, chemical and biological protection. The auditors also pointed out that the Těchonín Biological Protection Centre (TBPC) has not been completed even 22 years after the start of its construction and is not fulfilling two of its nine statutory functions.

The reason for the failure to implement 75% of the planned purchases was not a lack of funds - the annual investment expenditures of the MoD increased by more than 226% in the audited period, and the MoD was approved to draw a total of CZK 6.8 billion from the state budget for the implementation of these 12 projects.

For example, the replacement and replenishment of chemical protection suits was originally supposed to start in 2016 due to their end-of-life and declining stocks. However, even after seven years, the MoD has not been able to procure these suits, designed to protect chemical warfare specialists. At the time of the end of the audit, the MoD was planning to purchase them by the end of 2025. Being equipped with chemical protection suits is a necessary condition for the successful certification of the units of the CAF to be assigned to the NATO Rapid Deployable Corps.

The purchase of new chemical spraying vehicles (ACHR-90), which are designed to decontaminate equipment and personnel from biological, chemical and radioactive substances, will also be delayed by at least six years. The vehicles were to be procured between 2022 and 2023, but the MoD has postponed the purchase until 2028 to 2030. Both these vehicles and the chemical protection suits are part of the equipment used during the deployment of the CAF's chemical troops in the Integrated Rescue System (IRS). Instead of new vehicles, old vehicles that reached the end of their service life many decades ago are being allocated to the IRS.

The SAO found serious deficiencies in one of the three implemented projects, namely in the acquisition of light armoured vehicles for radiation, chemical and biological reconnaissance. Although the MoD had planned to purchase 14 of these vehicles in 2015, it fundamentally changed its requirements the following year and decided to purchase 40 pairs of vehicles. The projected expenditure was thus increased by 522%, from the original CZK 860 million to CZK 5.4 billion. The MoD did not justify this step. According to the SAO, during the project implementation, the MoD did not proceed in accordance with the Act on Budgetary Rules or the Act on Financial Control. Among other things, because it did not consider whether providing the advance to the contractor was economically advantageous. In total, the MoD paid almost CZK 4.6 billion in advances, i.e. 89% of the purchase price.

The construction of the TBPC began in 2001 with a target completion date of 2005. The completion date was later postponed to 2022. The MoD is now planning to complete construction in 2027, when the science and research facility should be completed. This is necessary to fulfil two statutory functions of the centre that are not currently being fulfilled. Biodefence research and laboratory diagnostics of biological agents (e.g. bacteria, viruses or fungi) exploitable for bioterrorism or biological weapons have not yet been carried out. Thus, the centre does not form a functional unit at the highest level of biological security as planned and is not fully used. Therefore, the SAO assessed the state budget funds of CZK 3.7 billion spent until the end of 2022 on TBPC as being of limited effectiveness. The SAO found that no patients were hospitalised at the centre between 2014 and 2022. The MoD uses part of its capacity for soldiers in quarantine who have returned from epidemiologically risky areas.

The Chemical Army of the Czech Armed Forces has a history of more than a century, its units have participated in operations in Kuwait, Iraq, Afghanistan and the Balkans, among other places. The main tasks of this troop include providing radiation and chemical reconnaissance and non-specific biological reconnaissance, sampling, laboratory analysis of radioactive and toxic substances, as well as warning against attacks by weapons of mass destruction and toxic substance leaks. It is also deployed in support of the IRS, for example during natural disasters.

The Těchonín Biological Protection Centre is a specialised medical facility of the Czech Armed Forces, which serves to provide comprehensive biological protection of the Czech Armed Forces. It includes a specialised infectious disease hospital for isolation and treatment of persons with particularly dangerous and exotic infections. The centre is part of the IRS and is involved in the NATO biological protection system.

Communication Department
Supreme Audit Office

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