Restoration of cultural monuments? No objectives, no plans and often in a non-transparent and delayed manner
Press release on audit No 22/22 - 28 August 2023
The Supreme Audit Office focused on the funds earmarked for the preservation and restoration of cultural monuments distributed by the Ministry of Culture (MoC) between 2019 and 2022. A total of 2.6 billion CZK out of six specific programmes was distributed among 7,457 projects. The SAO has found numerous shortcomings in the way the MoC approached the restoration of monuments. For example, the MoC lacked specific objectives and plans for the restoration of monuments, and also failed to implement measures and tasks that it had often set itself. The auditors have furthermore found shortcomings in evaluations of projects, which in some cases were non-transparent and disproportionately long.
The MoC has distributed money for the preservation and restoration of cultural monuments without setting out objectives which it wanted to achieve with this aid. For this reason, it is not even possible to evaluate what the distributed funds have actually achieved and whether it has been used in the best possible way. In this respect, the problem that the SAO pointed out in a similar audit from 2017 continues.
The MoC also acted contrary to its own decisions and tasks. Given the limited amount of funds available for the preservation and restoration of cultural monuments, the MoC identified the need to set clear priorities and support essential projects. However, this did not happen in practice - on the contrary, the MoC distributed the funds in smaller amounts among as many applicants as possible. As a result, this has led to longer repair times.
In another case, the MoC identified the need to propose new legislation to replace the existing Heritage Conservation Act, which has been in force since 1987. However, the bill drafted by the MoC in 2015 was not approved. Since then, the Ministry has not come up with a new proposal, was not working on it at the time of the audit, and was only postponing the task and transferring it to new conceptual documents.
Another task of the MoC is to ensure that the care of monuments is planned, comprehensive and in accordance with a long-term concept, which is required by law. However, by the end of the audit, the MoC had not developed a plan or concept setting out specific measures and tasks for the preservation and restoration of monuments, which would be a guideline for the restorations. All of this should have been completed by 2021 at the latest.
The SAO has also focused on the evaluation of the projects themselves. The auditors have found that the processing of applications was complicated and time-consuming. The MoC was physically processing applications in paper form, which was one of the reasons of the delays. In some cases, the whole process from application to grant took up to one and a half year.
The evaluation and selection of specific projects was non-transparent in three out of the six programmes. For example, it was not clear how and on what criteria the MoC had assessed the individual projects. The MoC did not set evaluation criteria for obtaining support that were known to the beneficiaries in advance. In sum, this created a non-transparent environment and unequal conditions for applicants.
Supreme Audit Office