Urgent need for action in Austria’s protection forests
Protection forests are vital for the preservation of human habitat in Austria. However, only about a quarter of the protection forest areas, which comprise 154,000 hectares and are managed by the Österreichische Bundesforste AG (Austrian Federal Forests), are in a good condition. The forests in these areas can exert their protective effect for the next 20 years. The forests that are in a poor state will have to be restored within the next ten or 20 years. This is shown by the follow-up report “Protection Forest Management at the Österreichische Bundesforste AG” published today.
Furthermore, the ACA presented the follow-up audit report on the “Bundespensionskasse AG – Investment Strategies and Asset Management”. The high degree of implementation shows that the Austrian Court of Audit (ACA) makes an impact: 82 per cent of the 22 assessed recommendations were implemented either fully or partly.
The need for restoring protection forests was systematically assessed
In its preceding audit, the ACA had recommended to the Österreichische Bundesforste AG to systematically take stock of and assess the protection forest stands. According to the figures now available, 12 per cent of the 154,000-hectares-large protection forest areas will have to be restored with the next ten years, and 82 per cent within the next 20 years. This is due to the fact that the protective effect of the forests is declining and negative developments are becoming apparent. Only 26 per cent of the protection forest areas are in a good condition. The figures relate to 2018. The considerable age of many trees – in 27 percent of the areas, the oldest tree layer was already more than 200 years old – is one of the reasons for the substantial need for restoration. Furthermore, damage caused by game is significantly impeding forest growth.
The ACA recommends to the Österreichische Bundesforste AG to take the necessary restoration measures in a timely manner – according to the ascertained necessity for restoration – in order to preserve or restore the full functionality of the protection forest.
The ACA had addressed its overall 14 recommendations to the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and/or the Österreichische Bundesforste AG. Of the two assessed recommendations, the Federal Ministry of Agriculture had implemented one fully and one partly. Of the twelve assessed recommendations, the Österreichische Bundesforste AG had implemented seven fully, two partly and two not at all. As regards one recommendation, no case has arisen yet in which it could have been applied.
Internal limit breaches did not decline at the Bundespensionskasse AG
The Bundespensionskasse AG is the corporate pension fund of the Federation. Since 2009 it has also been responsible for the supplementary pensions of teachers working in the provinces. As at 31 December 2019, the number of beneficiaries amounted to 236,449 persons.
From January 2011 to June 2016, the Bundespensionskasse AG committed so-called active limit breaches of internal regulations – e.g. through the purchase or sale of securities – in 23 of 66 months. The ACA had recommended that greater attention be paid to ensuring compliance with the limits. In the framework of its follow-up audit, the ACA found that the frequency of limit breaches had not declined. Between July 2016 and end-2019, active limit breaches of internal regulations were detected in 16 of 42 months.
Nevertheless, the ACA considers its recommendation to have been implemented at least partly: although the Bundespensionskasse AG failed to attain an improvement with regard to the active limit breaches, it has not committed any active breaches of regulatory limits. Furthermore, an additional staff member was hired in the area of risk management in 2019 in order to reduce the number of internal limit breaches in the future.
Of the overall eight assessed recommendations, the Bundespensionskasse AG implemented six fully and one in part. As regards one recommendation, no case has arisen yet in which it could have been applied.
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Report: Protection Forest Management at the Österreichische Bundesforste AG; Follow-up Audit (in German)
From January 2020 to March 2020, the ACA carried out a follow-up audit of the Österreichische Bundesforste AG (Austrian Federal Forests) and the Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Regions and Tourism in order to assess the state of implementation of the recommendations it had issued in its preceding report "Protection Forest Management at the Österreichische Bundesforste AG" (volume Federation 2017/29).
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Report: Bundespensionskasse AG – Investment Strategies and Asset Management; Follow-up Audit (in German)
In July and August 2020 the ACA carried out a follow-up audit of the Bundespensionskasse AG in order to assess the state of implementation of selected recommendations issued in its preceding report "Bundespensionskasse AG – Investment Strategies and Asset Management" (volume Federation 2018/8).