The Court of Auditors criticizes the fact that the Ministry of the Interior has concluded contracts for asylum accommodation for too long. Eleven of the care facilities were closed at the end of 2020 with a valid contractual relationship, i.e. despite ongoing payments, three of which were used as a depot, the auditors write in dem Report, which was created at the request of the Liberals. It is also criticized that there were no plans for a large influx like in 2015 and 2016.
The Court of Auditors admits that it has been possible to prevent homelessness among asylum seekers, although from September 2015 to February 2016 an average of 131,500 refugees per month arrived in Austria, most of whom were so-called “transit refugees” who went to other countries countries traveled on. In addition, it is pointed out that the Ministry of the Interior was in a “predicament” at the time, which weakened its negotiating position and increased the pressure to achieve contracts in a timely manner.
The best solution, both economically and legally, was not always achieved for the Ministry of the Interior. By the end of 2020, the federal government had incurred costs of over eleven million for closed care facilities.
Sticking point basic supply
The investigation was about the basic service in the federal government, i.e. the time of the approval process for the procedure. Only when this has been completed can the refugees be transferred to the basic supply quarters of the federal states. Since 2013, the responsible Ministry of the Interior has concluded 31 contracts for new care facilities, mostly with private contractors. In 2020, only seven of them were actively used, three were only activated again due to the necessities of the corona pandemic. While the contracts for 19 neighborhoods had expired, eleven were shut down, although the contracts are still running.
The Court of Auditors notes here that individual leases are bound for up to 15 years. Long periods of notice also restricted the ability to react flexibly to changing conditions. The Ministry is recommended to evaluate these contracts and renegotiate them if possible. Economically disadvantageous or unusual contract contents such as increased maintenance obligations, excessive rents and missing creditworthiness information were only “understandable” to a limited extent for the auditors. The contracts for the properties in Steinhaus, Gaisberg and Bergheim are viewed particularly critically.
Container facilities that were built during the refugee crisis represent a special problem area. Because when these were finished, there was no longer the need that had been expected. The Interior Ministry used less than 30 percent of the 3,063 containers procured to house asylum seekers for the intended purpose. The Court of Auditors saw potential savings of 15 million.
Structured assessment “not available”
Because the entire system is not cheap anyway. The direct expenditure of the federal government from 2013 to 2020 was around 635 million euros. Eleven percent of this was attributable to rents. Additional staff had to be deployed during the crisis. Efforts were later made to reduce it, but this did not succeed to a sufficient extent, as the Court of Auditors finds.
In general, the examiners critically stated that the Ministry had not established a process for crisis situations with a rapid increase in the number of applications. Strategically, no precautions were taken by the ministry: “It was therefore only able to react to the increased need for accommodation at short notice,” says the report.
The ministry did have data on asylum, foreign affairs and basic services. However, a structured and comprehensive assessment of the required capacities was not available. Responsibilities were also not clearly defined. Different organizational units of the department were used to search for and check the suitability of objects. (apa)