In 2014, professional firefighters did not receive half of amounts claimed for help in traffic accidents because of conflicting rules
PRESS RELEASE on Audit No. 15/08 – January 25, 2016
The Supreme Audit Office (SAO) scrutinized management of regional professional fire rescue service units in Prague, South Moravian, Liberec, and Pardubice regions in 2013 and 2014. Auditors scrutinized property worth CZK 532 million and funds in the amount of CZK 90 million and concluded that the collection of charges in case professional firefighters helped during traffic accidents was complicated because of confliction legal regulations and that the General Directorate of the Czech Fire Rescue Service failed to set clear rules for reimbursements for some provided services. The SAO also pointed out that the General Directorate should procure the emergency equipment from the purchasing centre.
The audit revealed that due to an ambiguity of legal stipulations the fire brigades could not get half of the claimed amount – CZK 300 million – as the fire brigades who apply for the payments interpret the rules differently from the insurance companies, which are supposed to cover costs of the fire brigades’ assistance from the compulsory third party liability insurance. Insurance companies sometimes did not reimburse the costs explaining that the guilty party should pay. However, according to the law, firefighters cannot bring claims against the guilty party in traffic accidents. The General Directorate failed to issue rules to deal with this situation and as a result, claims were not applied in one third of traffic accident assistances. And with the applied claims, insurance companies refused to reimburse about 30 % of costs. The Government also influenced the collection of reimbursements when enacted the new rule, which stipulates that costs of the assistance should be covered from the compulsory third party liability insurance. It also determined the hourly rate at CZK 5,600 in spite in the original draft regulation it was CZK 7,000. The new act on emergency fire rescue services applicable since 2016 has not solved this issue, but it is clear that a uniform legal arrangement would make it possible to receive more reimbursements.
Problems occurred with revenues, which come as compensations for services provided by firefighters. The General Directorate failed to issue guidelines for concluding contracts or set models for price calculations for operating the central emergency console and for answering false alarms. For example, the fire rescue service (FRS) unit in Liberec Region operated the central emergency console in 2013 and 2014 free of charge, while the FRS in Pardubice Region received CZK 8.2 million in the same period. In case of false alarms, the situation was similar and the prices varied from CZK 1,000 to CZK 8,200.
The General Directorate did not use the purchasing centre when procured some emergency equipment in spite there were more than 6,000 firefighters who used the equipment. Regional directorates organized tenders for protective clothing, shoes, and other pieces of emergency equipment individually. Thus costs of similar pieces of clothing varied in the audited regions sometimes by CZK 3,000 and with the same pair of shoes by CZK 600. The SAO recommends using the purchasing centre so that the General Directorate make specified and optimised requests for individual pieces of equipment and so that more potential suppliers enter the tenders, which should lower the resulting prices.
Auditors revealed only minor errors when scrutinizing expenditures of individual FRS units.
Supreme Audit Office