Used as a depot – the federal government paid millions for closed asylum homes

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 depots. The federal government incurred costs of over eleven million euros by the end of 2020 from the closed facilities alone. In addition, the examiners in the current report complain that there were no plans for a large influx of refugees like in 2015 and 2016.

The Court of Auditors admits that it was 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, the report, which was prepared at the request of the FPÖ, points out that the Ministry of the Interior was in a “predicament” at the time, which weakened its negotiating position and increased the pressure to conclude contracts in a timely manner . The most economical and legal solution for the Ministry of the Interior was not always achieved. Contracts are still running for eleven shut-down districts. 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 37 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 closed quarters had expired, eleven were shut down, although the contracts are still running. The Court of Auditors notes here that individual leases are tied for up to 15 years. Long periods of notice also restricted the ability to react flexibly to changing conditions. The Ministry is recommended to review these contracts and renegotiate them if possible. Economically disadvantageous or unusual contract content – such as increased maintenance obligations or excessive rents – were “only partially understandable” for the auditors. The contracts for the properties in Steinhaus am Semmering and Bergheim and Gaisberg in Salzburg are viewed particularly critically. Container systems, which 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 accommodate asylum seekers for the intended purpose. The Court of Auditors saw potential savings of 15 million. From 2013 to 2020, quarters cost 635 million euros 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 the number of applicants, but this was not successful, according to the Court of Auditors. In general, the auditors are critical of the fact 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.

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