Rechnungshof

Increase the use of electronic tags

21.02.2020 - Today, the ACA published two reports on quality labels for food products and the execution of sentences and measures

Today, the Austrian Court of Audit (ACA) published the following reports:

Austria’s prisons are full. On 1 January 2019, Austria had 9,163 prisoners, of which about 340 persons wore electronic tags. The ACA audited the General Directorate for the Execution of Sentences and Measures at the Federal Ministry of Justice for the period of 2015 to 2018. In its report published today on the “Management and Coordination of the Execution of Sentences and Measures”, the ACA points to the high number of prisoners. A further point of criticism: lower demands as regards the recruiting of prison guards.

The ACA recommends: increase the use of electronic tags

For reasons of safety, the prisons have separate units, for example units for normal custody, first-time offenders, juvenile detainees or women. With regard to the reserved detention places, the General Directorate assumed that the prisons’ capacities are usually exhausted at an occupancy rate of 90% or 95%. From 2015 to early 2019, the number of prisoners increased by 5.4%. As at 1 January 2019, the nationwide overall occupancy was at over 95%. Some prisons had already reached their capacity limits and were clearly overcrowded: in 2018 the occupancy rate of the Prison Wien-Josefstadt was even at 117%. The ACA therefore recommends to the Federal Ministry of Justice to reduce the number of prisoners – if possible from a security perspective – and proposes an increased use of electronic tags or the transfer of prisoners to their state of origin. It necessary, the number of detention places will have to be increased.

Ministry simplifies application procedure for prison guards

In its report, the ACA also identifies difficulties with regard to finding suitable personnel for the Prison Guard. In the audited period, for example, several established posts were vacant: less than 95% had been filled. Furthermore, the ACA deemed the high percentage of older officers as problematic. In mid-2018, more than 30% were over the age of 50. Furthermore, the average retirement age was 58 years. In order to receive sufficient applications for the Prison Guard, the Federal Ministry of Justice lowered the criteria for a positive completion of the application procedure. As regards the fields “spelling” and “general knowledge”, for example, the criteria to pass the test were lowered from 50% to 40%, in the field “arithmetic” from 50% to only 33%. The ACA perceived the reduction of the requirements for the selection of applicants as problematic since the ultimate aim is to find suitable personnel for the Prison Guard and therefore to raise the number of applications.

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Report: Management and Coordination of the Execution of Sentences and Measures (in German)

From October 2018 to January 2019, the ACA carried out an audit of the management and coordination of the execution of sentences by the Federal Ministry of Constitutional Affairs, Reforms, Deregulation and Justice.

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No systematic checks of private quality labels for food products

Quality labels for food products based on private initiatives are not subject to compulsory, stringent controls. In its report published today on the “Coordination of Quality Labels for Food Products”, the ACA criticises the lack of transparency and an insufficient strategy against possible deception and misleading of consumers.

The audit was carried out at the Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Regions and Tourism, the Agrarmarkt Austria (AMA), the AMA Marketing GesmbH, the provinces of Lower Austrian and Upper Austria as well as the Federal Ministry of Social Affairs, Health, Care and Consumer Protection. The audited period spanned the years from 2014 through 2018. 

More than 100 quality labels for food products

More than 100 quality labels are used in the food sector in Austria. However: only few of them are based on laws or ordinances. The AMA Marketing GesmbH, for example, developed the AMA seal of quality and the AMA organic label. The other labels are mostly voluntary seals governed by private law. For consumers, it is impossible, or would involve a disproportionate effort, to trace under which conditions the labels are awarded and by whom they are controlled.

The ACA critically points to the lack of mandatory minimum requirements for privately initiated quality labels. In the interest of consumer protection and for official food controls, such requirements would be an important basis. Furthermore, the ACA critically highlights the lack of control standards for food packaging in relation to a deception and misleading of consumers. The ACA recommends to define minimum requirements for quality labels. Control bodies should follow standards when they assess the presentation of food products with regard to misleading information and their likeliness to deceive the public.

Austria has had 17 products protected at the EU level

At the EU level, the indications “protected designation of origin”, “protected geographical indication”, “traditional speciality guaranteed” and the EU organic logo are regulated by law. Such quality labels serve to protect and to highlight special agricultural products. Although the labels are used for marketing purposes, they also protect against a falsification or misuse of the product designation. As regards Austria, 17 products had a special protected status at the time of the audit. This included, for example, the “Wachauer Marille” (apricot varieties from the Wachau region), the “Tiroler Graukäse” (Tyrolean grey cheese) and the “Gailtaler Speck” (variety of bacon from the Gailtal region). Consequently, of the 1,429 protected products listed in the respective EU quality products registers at the time of the audit, 1.2 per cent were of Austrian origin. The lion’s share, namely half of the protected products, came from Italy, France and Spain. Austria lacked an overall strategy of whether local products should be protected. The ACA recommends an adequate coordination and management to the Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Regions and Tourism. 

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Report: Coordination of Quality Labels for Food Products (in German)

From April to June 2018, the ACA carried out an audit of the coordination of the quality labels for food products by the Federal Ministry of Sustainability and Tourism (now the Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Regions and Tourism), the Agrarmarkt Austria (AMA), the AMA Marketing GesmbH as well as by the provinces of Lower Austrian and Upper Austria.

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