Home-grown Fish campaign cost CZK 178 million but did not boost the domestic consumption of fish

PRESS RELEASE on Audit No. 13/28 – June 2, 2014

The Supreme Audit Office (SAO) performed an audit of Operational Programme Fisheries 2007–2013. Auditors scrutinized 33 projects worth CZK 128.5 million in total and revealed violations of budgetary principles exceeding CZK 2 million. Auditors also aimed at the Ministry of Agriculture and the State Agricultural Intervention Fund that were responsible for the Programme’s management, provided grants, and monitored the processes.

According to the SAO, the Czech Republic will probably draw the whole amounts allocated for the Programme (nearly CZK 1,000 million), but two out of three Programme’s objectives will not be met. The Ministry failed to set assessment criteria in some cases and in other cases the criteria were set badly, so it was not possible to perform a reasonable evaluation of the outcomes.

Errors were also revealed in the selection processes and the projects’ monitoring. During the selection processes, the Ministry did not take account of the quality, effectiveness, or efficiency of projects. At least 25 projects, which had not gained any points during the selection phases, were selected for implementation. The State Agricultural Intervention Fund (that was responsible for inspections) failed to reveal ineligible expenditures, which should not have been reimbursed.

When scrutinizing individual projects, auditors found most significant errors at financially weighty project entitled “Home-grown Fish”. The project worth CZK 178 million in total was managed by the Ministry that was also the grant’s beneficiary. The SAO scrutinized expenditures in the amount of CZK 52.5 million and revealed violations of budgetary principles amounting to CZK 1.8 million. The Project had only one provider and aimed at boosting the domestic consumption of freshwater fish. But according to the Czech Statistical Office, there has been a continually declining trend in the freshwater fish’s consumption in the Czech Republic since 2009.

In the frame of the campaign, the Ministry of Agriculture paid CZK 1.5 million for “the care for the brand“, only on the grounds of a written statement of the supplier and without any documented performance. The project’s “PR realisation“ included covering expenditures in the amount of CZK 277,000 for media monitoring aimed at news related to the topic. However, the articles and TV reportages were only loosely related to the topic as reported about fish cooking and gave general information. Most news did not mention the Project and could not have developed PR campaign of the “Home-grown Fish”.

For ten months, the Ministry funded an emergency phone line intended for alarms concerning cases of contaminated fish meat. The phone line was not used often and when we divide costs of its running in 2008, it is revealed that one call cost almost CZK 9,000. The Ministry also paid for 13 publicity stunts including a cooking show and 39 small campaigns during fishing out events. The used cooking utensils were rented for CZK 300,000 and another CZK 360,000 was spent on production and repairs of happy wheels, which the visitors could run to win small presents.

The SAO criticized the same errors in the audit report from auditing operation No 09/12, which was published in 2010, but the Ministry of Agriculture has not adopted any corrective measures since. The SAO warns that errors may re-appear in the following programing period 2014–2020.

Communication Department
Supreme Audit Office

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