ACA presents four reports
Today, the Austrian Court of Audit (ACA) published the following reports:
- Federal Office for Immigration and Asylum
- Hospital of Oberwart – Planning, Refurbishment and Construction
- Internal Control System in the Debt and Investment Management of the Province of Tyrol
- Disaster Relief; Follow–up Audit
Federal Office for Immigration and Asylum
Since 2014, the Federal Office for Immigration and Asylum (BFA) has been the first-instance authority with regard to asylum proceedings. Furthermore, the authority is also competent in cases related to immigration, the right of residence in noteworthy circumstances and the Federal Basic Welfare Support Act (Grundversorgungsgesetz-Bund). Owing to international and national developments, the workload of the office was difficult to forecast. The ACA found that the development of the number of staff was traceable and that the BFA had reacted to the changing framework conditions in a timely manner. However, a uniform level and standard of training for the officers in charge of the proceedings was lacking.
No uniform quality of decisions
Although team leaders and officers in charge of the proceedings had to have successfully passed a secondary school-leaving examination (Reifeprüfung) or a secondary school leaving examination for working people (Berufsreifeprüfung) and go through a psychological test, they did not hold a university degree (in law). Only from March 2016 on did the BFA have a structured one-month training, which was completed by 54 officials. In April 2016, the BFA introduced a four-month basic training. By March 2018, this course had been completed by 235 officials. Due to the lacking legal prior knowledge of the officers in charge of the proceedings, the broad scope of tasks and possible infringements of fundamental rights, a uniform quality of decisions (e.g. with regard to the reasons in official decisions on asylum applications was not ensured sufficiently.
Management of staff was hardly possible due to fluctuating staff requirements
When the BFA was established, it had 505 staff members. Four years later, as of 1 January 2018, its staff counted 1,339 members, which equalled an increase of some 165 per cent. Since its foundation, the staff-related expenditure has increased by some 112 per cent and totalled some EUR 61 million in 2017. Overall, the BFA had only few possibilities to manage the staff due to fluctuating staff requirements. The possibility to shift staff members within the ministry was, according to the ACA’s opinion, insufficient. In fact, the BFA was confronted with 28,064 and asylum applications in 2014; in 2015 the asylum applications accounted for 88,340. In 2016 and 2017, the number of asylum applications decreased to 42,285 and 24,735 respectively. Originally, the BFA was created for the processing of about 15,750 asylum decisions. The office was headquartered in Vienna; each province had a regional directorate; in addition to that, initial reception centres and branch offices had been established. As of May 2018, the BFA had 25 entities.
The number of pending asylum proceedings at the BFA is decreasing – pending asylum proceedings at the Federal Administrative Court are increasing
The ACA noted that the BFA could decrease the number of the pending first-instance asylum proceedings (incl. the period of appeal) from more than 73,000 in end-2015 to some 16,000 in end-June 2018. With this, it clearly fell below the number of pending cases prior to the refugee crisis in 2015/2016. In the same period, the number of pending asylum proceedings at the Federal Administrative Court increased from some 6,300 to over 30,000 and surpassed the number of pending first-instance proceedings. The ACA concluded that the decisions of the Federal Administrative Court had a direct impact on the workload of the BFA (e.g. referrals back, removal from the country).
Information gaps with regard to alien offenders
The prisons had to inform the BFA, as soon as possible, on aliens who reported to serve a penalty or who were released. In general, the security authorities as well as the public prosecution offices and the prisons informed the BFA on offences of aliens in a reliable and timely manner. The ACA, however, criticized that the Vienna-Josefstadt prison failed to consistently inform the competent regional directorate prior to off-the-cuff prison releases of aliens. The ACA therefore recommended to ensure that all prisons consistently inform the competent regional directorates of the BFA prior to off-the-cuff prisons releases of aliens. In 2018 the competent ministry took additional measures in the area of alien offenders and delinquent asylum seekers. The ACA recommended to evaluate such measures in a timely manner and to make adjustments in accordance with national and international standards.
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Report: Federal Office for Immigration and Asylum
From February to June 2018, the Austrian Court of Audit carried out an audit of the Federal Office for Immigration and Asylum, a subordinate authority of the Federal Ministry of the Interior. The audit focused on the organization, the strategy and the objectives of the Federal Office for Immigration and Asylum, the staff, the asylum- and immigration-related proceedings as well as the quality management and the internal control system. The audited period essentially spanned the years from 2014 through 2017.
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- 80 Seiten
Report: Hospital of Oberwart – Planning, Refurbishment and Construction
From January to June 2018, the Austrian Court of Audit carried out an audit of the planning, refurbishment and the new construction of the hospital of Oberwart (Burgenland). The audit was performed based on a request of 15 members of the provincial parliament of Burgenland. In accordance with this audit request, the audit aimed at assessing the costs for the ongoing maintenance and refurbishment of the hospital building, for the general refurbishment project, which included an extension and reconstruction of the building, and for the new construction project. Furthermore, the auditors looked into the decision-making processes with regard to the cancelled general refurbishment and the construction of the new hospital building of Oberwart. The audited period spanned 13 years (2004-2016), as determined by the members of the provincial parliament of Burgenland.
- Despite the reduction of the maintenance measures, the Burgenländische Krankenanstalten–Gesellschaft m.b.H. (hospital association of Burgenland) should guarantee reliability and operational safety for the existing hospital.
- In the spirit of a transparent presentation of the costs, the Burgenländische Krankenanstalten–Gesellschaft m.b.H. should carry out a clear and consistent allocation of the measures taken. In doing so, such measures should, for example, consistently be implemented in the form of projects or investments and be documented correspondingly.
- As regards future construction projects, the province of Burgenland should ensure a clear and timely allocation of roles in order to prevent ambiguities with regard to the responsibilities and to ensure a consistent and clearly structured project organization.
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- 88 Seiten
Report: Internal Control System in the Debt and Investment Management of the Province of Tyrol
From July to October 2018, the Austrian Court of Audit carried out an audit of the internal control system (ICS) in the debt and investment management of the province of Tyrol. The audit aimed at assessing the provisions with regard to the ICS and its structure, the handling of risks, the consideration of the ICS-related principles in the elaboration of internal provisions and processes as well as the control exercised by the authorities with regard to the ICS in the debt and investment management. The audit did not include a complete collection and examination of all procedural steps and controls of the ICS and of the risk management; it neither included an assessment of the individual financial operations. The audited period spanned the years from 2013 through 2017.
- If the complexity and degree of risk of financial transactions continue to increase, the requirements on the debt and investment management should be increased correspondingly and according to the principles of risk management and the ICS.
- The annual risk analyses as provided for in the strategy of the province of Tyrol 2019-2023 (“Strategie des Landes Tirol 2019–2023”) (i.a. with regard to interest rate risks, liquidity risks and operational risks) as well as the related risk reports to the provincial financial officer should be carried out and prepared as soon as possible.
- In the spirit of transparency and risk mitigation and based on the already existing components of ICS (i.a. guidelines, powers of representation and signatory powers as well as process descriptions), a comprehensive and structured ICS should be established and regular evaluations should be performed.
- The possibility of a manual entry of payment orders in the electronic payment system of the main bank – without a prior recording in the accounting system – should be inhibited.
- Rules should be established to separate the rights to create and change creditor master data on the one hand and to authorize electronic payments and edit payment proposals on the other hand.
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- 36 Seiten
Report: Disaster Relief; Follow–up Audit
In October and November 2018, the Austrian Court of Audit carried out an audit of the province of Salzburg in order to assess the state of implementation of its recommendations issued in its preceding report “Disaster Relief in the Provinces of Lower Austria, Salzburg and Tyrol” (i.a. volume Salzburg 2017/5).
- The relevant stakeholders should take a decision on the revised directives related to disaster relief.
- Despite the limitation of aid applicants to small and medium-sized enterprises, an evaluation scheme containing the operational data of such enterprises for hardship cases should be developed and applied.
- A provision with regard to the obtaining of expert opinions in the case of pecuniary damages caused by disasters to municipalities should be taken up in the implementation regulations.