Supreme Audit Office: state administration wastes money

The Czech Supreme Audit Office, an independent institution which audits the management of state property and the performance of the national budget, has discovered ineffectiveness and irregularities in public finances.

In a series of audits whose results have just been published, it looked into the books of the ministries of finance, interior, environment, agriculture and transport. At a press conference on Monday, the Office's chairman, Jiri Volenik, said that it had discovered irregularities concerning the IMF and World Bank session which took place in Prague in 2000:

"There were problems with the public tender for the main organiser. During the session itself, we found only minor irregularities in the accounting books. However, after the event, we discovered that property worth more than 3 million CZK disappeared."

The property in question were computers and office equipment. The Ministry of Finance, which was responsible for the event, has defended itself against the allegations, saying it was not possible to prevent theft. The ministry's spokeswoman, Jana Vargova:

"One of the conditions put forth by the IMF and World Bank was that all rooms at the Congress centre be accessible to candidates 24 hours a day. That was why we could not lock a single door."

Mrs. Vargova added that costs of hiring a security service for this purpose would exceed the value of the property stolen.

Problems were also found at the Ministry of Environment, which is ineffectively spending large amounts of money on restoration of areas damaged by the presence of the former Soviet Army before 1990. The Supreme Audit Office also pointed out that there was a lack of co-ordination between related ministries, namely the ministry of environment, transport and agriculture, in support programmes, such as reforestation, restoration of original water streams and wetlands.