CZK 9,400 million from EU and national budgets spent on environment protection without major improvements

PRESS RELEASE on Audit No. 16/10 – 23. 1. 2017

The Supreme Audit Office (SAO) scrutinized subsidies for environment protection that were granted by the Ministry of the Environment in the period from 2013 to 2015 under the Operational Programme Environment 2007–2013. In spite the Ministry of the Environment granted CZK 9,400 million in total under two national programmes, the state of the environment in the Czech Republic has not markedly improved, in some respects it has even worsened. For example, the areas of arable lands and non-fragmented landscape (habitats that are not discontinued by roads, fences or buildings) have been reduced and the situation of watercourses has also been injurious. The Czech Republic received the second highest sum in support of biodiversity and environment protection among EU Member States.

Auditors concluded that the Ministry of the Environment failed to assess the subsidised projects properly. The Ministry could not assess the effects of the subsidised projects because it had not set concrete and measurable goals within the subsidised programmes. Partial goals of the Operational Programmes Environment were too general, for instance “strengthening the biodiversity” and “improving natural conditions in the woods”.

The results of the subsidised programmes considerably exceeded what the Ministry of the Environment had originally planned because of unreasonably low expectations. The Ministry did pre-set specific target values within the subsidy programmes, however, these target values were seriously underestimated, so the actual results sometimes exceeded them by many times. In case of the Operational Programmes Environment, three out of the four main indicators were underestimated. For example, the Ministry only expected to revitalize 10 km2 of lands, but the actually revitalized area was 214 km2. Another partial goal was to grant subsidies to at least 150 projects, while 2,213 projects were subsidised in the end. Similar problems were detected during a previous audit operation of the SAO in 2010. On the other hand, the SAO appreciates that the Ministry set the goals in a better way for the new programming period (2014–2020).

The European Court of Auditor (ECA) found similar errors in 2014 when scrutinized 32 projects implemented in selected EU Member States, including the Czech Republic. According to the ECA’s findings, only tangible outcomes were assessed within the programmes, for example numbers and types of plants. Such indicators could not have measured whether and how the investments in environment protection effected the biodiversity.

Communication Department
Supreme Audit Office

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