State Land Office deals with restitutions of church assets: many requests not processed in time as there is only a 6-month period to fulfil all duties

PRESS RELEASE on Audit No. 14/34 – August 10, 2015

The Supreme Audit Office (SAO) scrutinized the costs of the establishment of the State Land Office (SLO), which replaced the Land Fund of the Czech Republic. Auditors focused on the new office’s management and scrutinized how the SLO fulfilled duties related to restitutions of church assets. The audited period was from 2012 to 2014. The most serious error found at the SLO was using company cars for personal travel without financial compensation. The SLO was established in 2013 and annual savings were planned to amount to CZK 227 million, namely since the stuff was downsized by 358 employees. But in 2014, the SLO hired 215 new employees. The question is whether the planned savings will be achieved in following years.

Auditors pointed out that there was only a short period between the new law’s adoption and the official date of entry into force. The Government started to prepare the transformation of the Land Fund of the Czech Republic in 2008. The Act on the SLO’s establishment was approved in the end of 2012 and came into effect on January 1, 2013. As a result, the SLO had little time to prepare its economic system, organisational structure, and new directives. It was not possible to open an account in the Czech National Bank and obtain the access rights to the State Treasure informational system in due time. Provisional methods had to be used to cover the SLO’s expenses until the end of May 2013. The SLO had no time to prepare an agreement for supply of the software in advance but it had to take up more than 600,000 parcels and some 8,500 buildings and to undertake over 200,000 contracts, which had previously been managed by the Land Fund of the Czech Republic.

According to the law on church assets restitutions, the SLO makes agreements for ownership transformations. When dealing with restitution requests, the SLO had many obligations but only a six-month period to meet them. For example, the SLO had to compare historical records with current data in the cadastre. In case the request was outside the SLO’s competences, the SLO had to forward it to the competent authority. The SLO also had to search archives to examine whether the claim were indisputable, re-establish geometrical limits of currently non-existing lands, and prepare restitution agreements. Out of 3 404 processed requests, the SLO did not keep up to the six-month legal period in 1 424 cases.

Auditors also found out that the SLO agreed that its employees used company cars for personal travel without financial compensation. Employees had to pay for the fuel when on personal trips, but it was revealed that the reports of company trips also contained confusing entries about travels of employees who were on holidays at the same times. In addition, all repair costs were covered by the SLO and not co-funded by employees who used the company cars. In case of 43 selected company cars, private trips made 36 % from the 451,000 driven kilometres.

Communication Department
Supreme Audit Office

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