Evaluation of the law on grants for the Environment abroad
Report ID: 1

Wahrnehmungsbericht des Rechnungshofes

Fachhochschule Wiener Neustadt für Wirtschaft und Technik Gesellschaft mbH

Kurzfassung

Die Fachhochschule Wiener Neustadt für Wirtschaft und Technik Gesellschaft mbH (Fachhochschule Wiener Neustadt) wurde 1994 als Trägergesellschaft der Fachhochschullehrgänge in Wiener Neustadt unter der Firmenbezeichnung Wiener Neustädter Bildungs– und Forschungsgesellschaft mbH gegründet. Seit der Aufnahme des Studienbetriebes mit 169 Studierenden in zwei Studiengängen entwickelte sich die Fachhochschule Wiener Neustadt zur größten österreichischen Fachhochschule mit über 1 600 Studierenden. Seit Herbst 2002 werden insgesamt sieben Studiengänge in Wiener Neustadt und in zwei Filialen (Wieselburg, Tulln) angeboten.

Das von der Fachhochschule Wiener Neustadt verfolgte Filialkonzept erschien dem RH grundsätzlich berechtigt. Einer Aufstockung der Studienplätze in stark nachgefragten Studiengängen sollte gegenüber der Entwicklung weiterer Studiengänge mit starker Spezialisierung der Vorrang gegeben werden.

Die Fachhochschule Wiener Neustadt verfügte über gute, auf die gesetzlichen Rahmenbedingungen und die Vorgaben der Gesellschafter abgestimmte Planungsdokumente. Die selbst gesteckten und in den Studiengangsanträgen an den Fachhochschulrat formulierten Ziele konnten erreicht werden.

Sowohl die für die bereits erfolgte Verlängerung von zwei Studiengängen erforderliche Evaluierung als auch die von der Fachhochschule Wiener Neustadt selbst regelmäßig vorgenommenen Befragungen von Studenten, Absolventen und Partnerfirmen erbrachten sehr gute Ergebnisse.

Die Finanzierung der Gesellschaft erfolgte zu mehr als 80 % aus der pauschalierten Studienplatzabgeltung des Bundes. Für technische Studiengänge waren die Normkosten zu niedrig angesetzt.

Audit on the protection of nature in the Region Lake Neusidl Ferto
Report ID: 2

The nature-protection of the area is basically determined by obligations emerging from international agreements signed by both countries. Among them are the RAMSAR-Convention (“Convention on Wetlands of International Importance, especially as Waterfowl Habitat”), the Convention on Biological Diversity, and the EU-Directives on Bird Protection, respectively Habitat. Lake Neusiedl/Fertő is a frontier water; therefore the provisions of the Helsinki Agreement on cross-border waterways and the protection of international lakes are taken into consideration with special importance.

In the region of Lake Neusiedl/Fertő, on the Hungarian side HUF 14,486.4 million domestic and HUF 1,476.5 million international resources were used for environment and nature protection developments.

Of this, HUF 289.3 million was spent on direct nature protection aims, while the rest served the purposes of traffic developments with a special focus on decreasing air pollution, and the construction of bicycle roads. The shortcoming was observed that the so-called other financial expenditures spent on the audited field, and the expenditures of professional tasks discharged by certain professional bodies, agencies, could not be demonstrated separately.

A recommendation was made to the minister that the accounting of the expenditures going to nature protection be established.

In Hungary, the natural, preservation and surrounding zones of Lake Neusiedl/Fertő were designated, but the list of these was not published in legal regulations; therefore it is not official. In case of the Lake Neusiedl/Fertő area, such legal provisions on increasingly protected and protected areas were applied, that are in line with the international requirements and set out in the law on nature protection.

For the protected areas, management plans valid from 2003 were made, in which the management and cultivation prescriptions were defined by parcel, in accordance with the characteristic features of the land and nature. However, the subsidy necessary for execution and the regulations on indemnification resulting from the restrictions of use are still outstanding. Therefore, the Hungarian State Audit Office has recommended that the government issue the decree on this issue as soon as possible. In its reply the government has indicated that the  preparation of the decree is underway.

Some of the different areas in Austria were clearly determined by law or other regulations. Some other nominations or borders, like the Biosphere Reserve of the UNESCO and the European Biogenetic Reserve could not be empathised at the Government of the Federal State of Burgenland. The cartographic definition of the borders of the RAMSAR protected area was adapted and changed during the audit. The Austrian Court of Audit recommended, to gather all relevant data concerning protected areas and international awards in a single central database. For the sake of juridical guarantee the borders of the different areas should be fixed, updated and defined by the exact borders of the pieces of land. The Government of the Federal State of Burgenland responded, that there were no files about the awards of UNESCO and European Council available, because the Federal State was not involved in the process of nomination.

The demanded update of the borders in the region of Lake Neusiedl/Fertő is in preparation.

The preservation of the protected areas is carried out by the two countries with different methods. On the Hungarian side, the areas have come – through buying-up – under state ownership, and were then utilised in frame of own activity, i.e. agricultural production (animal husbandry, grazing), or leasing out. In frame of safeguarding land for protection purposes, endeavours were made to establish larger, adjoining areas by keeping aspects of economy in mind. In addition to bringing the lands under state management, no other alternative solutions – e.g. renting – have come up. As a result of the decrease of state resources, the rate of buying-up has slowed; therefore a recommendation was made to the minister in charge of environment protection that necessary financial resources should be provided, in order to close the program as soon as possible.

In Austria safeguarding land was done by renting land. For the National Park Neuiedler See–Seewinkel. 9.650 ha were rented from the owners (at the end of 2001). In total there were twelve rent agreements, mainly with interest groups. The Austrian Court of Audit recommended for future contracts to aim at long–term rent agreements.

Besides, a comparison of expected expenses and possible kinds of financing should be made. On the Hungarian side, several developments aimed at the protection of the environment and nature were carried out in the audited region. In the area of reptile-migration, tunnels have been constructed under the motorway running in the area.

Within the framework of mine reconstructions, the revitalisation and restoration of the former open-pit mining areas took place.

The Austrian Court of Audit found out that the actual state of the fishstocks was unsatisfactory due to the distortion of species. The Government of the Federal State of Burgenland reported, that the release of eels (Anguilla anguilla) will be stopped. To protect the fishstocks. Hungarian authorities have submitted a joint project concerning the acquisition of the fishery right.

In consequence of the measures and investments, the quality of water is sufficient; this is checked through continuous water-quality tests, and dredging has been carried out when necessary. As a result of the measures and investments, the habitat of water fauna and flora can be considered secured. The economic use of the salty ponds, that are located in Austrian territory, results in disruption of the natural water management and as a consequence in losses of typical plants and in devastation of the ponds, due to the overwhelming penetration of reed and soil. This endangers the typical fauna of the region.

The Austrian Court of Audit recommended measures for the restitution of ponds. The Government of the Federal State of Burgenland reported the beginning of the restitution of ponds in the National Park, which led to a retreat of reed. Except of singular events there are no more disturbances of the natural water management of the ponds. In addition Beside the Hanság Channel serving the conduct of water from the lake, the Hungarian experts, to maintain and protect the water fauna and flora, have carried out habitat reconstruction covering 430 hectares.

A factor basically influencing the water quality of the lake is the wastewater management of the communities of the area. On the Hungarian side, the channelling of waste waters from the catchment area of the lake – with the exception of three sewage water treatment plants – has practically been solved, the pollution of problematic plants is expected to cease with the investment project due to finish in 2006. The further filtering of pollution will be ensured in the year 2003 by the putting into operation of the two filter-fields established in the cane-field.

For the communities on the western shore of the Lake a central waste water facility was constructed in the community of Schützen am Gebirge. It shall replace the existing nine local facilities.

The quality of reed stock in the Hungarian part of the lake has decreased even though modern equipment – satellite photographs – have been used for the surveillance of its state and quality and the monitoring of the reed harvest. In the interest of professional reed management and the improvement of the quality of the cane-field the management authorities are making efforts to terminate the monopolistic right of usage of reed production. The Hungarian State Audit Office has recommended that the government should issue a decree uniformly regulating reed management.

In Austria there were conflicts of use with agriculture, hunting, fishery and tourism. Drainage in the interest of agriculture has caused the creeping degradation of soil and the salty ponds, due to the continuous loss of salt. A guidance system for visitors, with the indications of requirements and prohibitions, was established only in the National Park. The intensive agricultural use resulted in endangering the typical habitats. Measures for agricultural downgrading, as they are implemented in the National Park, should be extended. Besides, the hunting of waterfowls in a RAMSAR protection area should be scrutinised. Any economic use of the ponds has to be avoided.

In the interest of the preparation of the nature protection measures and decisions, as well as the monitoring of the condition of the region, regular research and monitoring programs are carried out on the lake and in its environment in both countries.

The preparation of a program aimed at the longterm utilisation of the lake has emerged as a central issue. In 2002, the Hungarian National Park – as a result of examinations and professional work – prepared a long-term professional study. In the interest of securing the long-term, unified utilisation of Lake Neusiedl/Fertő, the State Audit Office recommended that the study should be developed into a comprehensive professional and financial project.

In the framework of the EU–initiative INTERREG II two projects were carried out in the Austrian National Park in co-operation with the administration of the Hungarian National Park.

Besides, many research and scientific projects were financed by the Austrian Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, Environment and Water Management and the Government of the Federal State of Burgenland. The Biological Center Illmitz was also permanently involved in projects of research and monitoring.

The Austrian Court of Audit recommended to develop a concept for research, nature protection and measures of development and to make up a ranking of the planned measures. The Government of the Federal State of Burgenland reported that the Scientific Advisory Board of the Austrian National Park was working on an overall research framework.

Besides, a co–financed project concerning the ponds is planned. In Hungary, the tasks related to the nature protection of Lake Neusiedl/Fertő are carried out by The Ministry of Environmental Protection and Water and its subordinate agencies, while in the Republic of Austria by the Office of the Government of the Federal State Burgenland. The Hungarian and Austrian authorities co-operate within the framework of the Austrian–Hungarian Committee for the National Parks, as well as Austrian–Hungarian Committee for cross border waterbodies. The relationship is outstandingly good, especially in the area of water management, in the framework of which – in addition to data exchange – the water quality is tested continuously and regularly.

The two supreme audit institutions have established in harmony with one another that the results, respectively the acceptance and recognition of the results, prove that the co-operation between Hungary and Austria is excellent both in the field of water issues and the national parks.

Parallel Audit of the Austrian Court of Audit and the Swiss Federal Audit Office - Controll of VAT
Report ID: 3

In a parallel audit the Austrian Court of Audit and the Swiss Federal Audit Office carried out a comparison of VAT inspections in the context of inspections on the premises in both countries. The year 2002 served as the basis for comparison, unless otherwise indicated.

Key Figures

In Switzerland there are approximately 300,000 registered entities liable to pay VAT; in Austria there are more than one million taxable entities. The comparatively high figure in Austria is due to approximately one million small enterprises subject to tax, the figure for these in Switzerland is only 186,600.

In Switzerland 160 inspectors were assigned to the VAT inspections, and they carried out approximately 6,700 audits. In Austria approximately 1,746 inspectors carried out around 42,500 audits, which – with the exception of special audits (Umsatzsteuer–Sonderprüfung) – concerned all attributable federal taxes.

In Switzerland, due to the activities of the inspectors, subsequent claims amounting to approximately EUR 164 million were made.

In Austria external audits led to EUR 1,293 million worth of subsequent tax claims, of which EUR 497 million concerned VAT.

In Switzerland an inspection resulted in a subsequent average VAT claim of approximately EUR 24,600 EUR, while in Austria the total subsequent average claim was approximately EUR 30,400, approximately EUR 11,700 of which was VAT.

In Switzerland, an inspector achieved on average subsequent claims of approximately EUR 1 million per annum, whereas in Austria the activities of an external auditor resulted on average in subsequent tax claims of approximately EUR 0.7 million, of which EUR 0.3 million concerned VAT.

The VAT system is similarly structured in both countries. However, existing differences should be taken into account in interpreting the comparison.

Legislation

The normal tax rate in Austria is 20 %, in Switzerland this is 7.6 %. The annual revenue level at which liability to value–added tax is incurred is considerably higher in Switzerland than in Austria.

This level is EUR 48,585 (CHF 75,000). In Austria tax liability is already incurred by annual revenues of more than EUR 22,000, which ex plains why so many small enterprises in Austria are registered to pay tax.

Organisational structure

In contrast to Switzerland, VAT in Austria is levied and inspected together with income tax and profits tax. 41 regional tax offices have been set up to this end. Monitoring the biggest enterprises is carried out by special organisational units.

The VAT inspections in Switzerland are carried out by the Federal Tax Administration (FTA) in Bern. The inspectors are based all over Switzerland.

Monitoring procedure

In Austria the procedure of a VAT–inspection is regulated in a published service regulation and is transparent for all involved. A concluding discussion on the premises about the results of the external audit is compulsory. The supplementary tax claims are stipulated by decree. Up–to–date controls are carried out using a special method, a special VAT audit (Umsatzsteuer–Sonderprüfung).

In Switzerland general information is published about the procedure concerning VAT inspections. The procedure has been standardized into three types of inspections.

Case selection and allocation

In Austria, tax offices draw up annual audit plans on the basis of three criteria (time, group and individual selection). The cases to be inspected over the coming weeks are assigned by the management.

In Switzerland, an inspector from the Federal Tax Administration receives a list of about 200 enterprises, (criteria–based selection and random selection) for several years, from which inspection cases are selected by the inspector himself. In addition, inspections which are particularly urgent are assigned by the management.

Controlling data

In Austria the relevant controlling data are published annually in a so–called “Anti–Fraud Report“.

In Switzerland there is a minimum of controlling data for internal use.

Coordinated Audits of the Implementation of Tasks Related to Environmental Projects and Measures in the Thaya River Basin
Report ID: 4

Part of the border between the Czech Republic and the Federal Republic of Austria lies in the Thaya River Basin. The Thaya River forms one part of this border, another part lies between the “Národní park Podyjí“ and the “Nationalpark Thayatal“.

On the basis of the intentions of the working plan of the EUROSAI Working Group on Environmental Auditing for 2002 – 2005, the  Supreme Audit Institutions Czech Republic and the Federal Republic of Austria signed an agreement on carrying out coordinated audits related to environmental projects and measures in the Thaya River Basin.

Both SAIs conducted audits focused on activities of responsible authorities when objectively stating ecological priorities in the specified area of the Thaya River Basin and when implementing the system of financial measures to improve the environment, namely water quality, nature protection, and biodiversity. The audit topics were the use of finances and other measures related to the improvement of the environment, especially water quality, nature protection and biodiversity. Evaluation of transboundary cooperation in the area of environmental protection is also a joint result of the audits.

The results of the audits were approved in separate national reports and were subsequently incorporated by the Supreme Audit Office, Czech Republic, as the coordinator of the audits, into the Joint Final Report. The common outcome of this audit is also an assessment of bilateral cooperation in the area of environmental protection.

Environmental Audit Report on the three-border area of Hungary Slovenia and Austria
Report ID: 5

The Austrian Court of Audit conducted an audit at the Federal Ministry of Forestry, Agriculture, Environment and Water Management and at the provincial governments of the provinces Styria and Burgenland. The audit took place from April to May 2005 and concerned the environmental situation at the border to Hungary and Slovenia. The audit focused on water quality (bodies of flowing water and ground water), soil quality and nature conservation (Natura 2000). The audit compared the actual state of the audited territory with the quality objectives as well as assessed the measures taken by the responsible authorities concerning their effectiveness to preserve and improve the environmental situation. The audited period covered the years from 2000 to the beginning of 2005.

 

Within their supervision duties the authorities responsible for water management (water management authorities) checked whether the municipal and industrial sewage treatment plants complied with the conditions defined by legal regulations and permissions. A comparison of the supervision activities in both provinces showed that the authorities of the province Burgenland investigated in a weekly rhythm whereas in Styria municipal plants were inspected three to six times a year and industrial plants usually once or twice a year.

 

In the opinion of the Austrian Court of Audit the inspection activities of the authorities should be harmonized all over Austria. It recommended that the Federal Ministry of Forestry, Agriculture, Environment and Water Management should work out guidelines concerning the frequency of controls. The frequency should be defined in such a way, that the water management authorities obtain a good overview of the installed systems and their emissions.

 

The objective of the Austrian Water Act concerning ground water quality is to obtain good chemical and quantitative conditions, a balance between extraction and regeneration and a quality, which generally allows the utilization of ground water as drinking water.

The Federal Ministry of Forestry, Agriculture, Environment and Water Management defined limit values for immissions by issuing regulations concerning drinking water and ground water. Based on the European Nitrate Directive an action programme was developed to protect the water bodies and to reduce and prevent water pollution caused by the agricultural use of land. This “Action Programme Nitrate” limits the application of fertilizers on agriculturally used land.