Security research: project selection system is functional, but unless the Ministry of the Interior makes necessary changes, the benefits of the allocated funds will be questionable
Press release on audit No 19/11 – 16 March 2020
The SAO has focused on the financial support provided by the Ministry of the Interior (MoI) for security research. These are subsidies for beneficiaries to ensure, for example, network security, image data analysis, security camera development, intelligent security systems, and so on. The MoI allocated, in terms of these subsidies, over one and a half billion Czech crowns between the years 2015 and 2018. A part of the funds was also intended for security research for the purposes of state institutions. In particular, the auditors have examined how the MoI allocated funds and how the allocation of financial support worked; they have also focused on a sample of 12 specific projects amounting to CZK 157 million.
The allocation of funds for security research is burdened with shortcomings which the SAO often points out in its audits – it is the ability of Ministries to evaluate the benefits of public funds that have been spent. In this case, the MoI did not set up indicators that would allow it to evaluate how research results had been used in practice, which was a prerequisite for ensuring that research results were beneficial for state security; this was the main purpose of the subsidies. However, at the same time, the MoI planed to allocate CZK 2.8 billion to specific projects by 2022.
Furthermore, the MoI has significantly underestimated the expected number of patents and other deliverables resulting from the projects; these will be exceeded by hundreds and sometimes even by thousands of percent. “The evaluation of a subsidy scheme designed in this manner will not be relevant once the scheme comes to an end and will not give any indication of its benefits for state security,” said the SAO Member Jan Kinšt, who led the audit.
The selection and evaluation process of projects itself had only partial shortcomings – for example the monitoring of possible duplications in funding had not been always consistent. The MoI supported a project aimed at studying the impact of roadside advertising on transport safety, although the same issue had already been addressed by the Transport Research Centre. A representative of the Ministry of Transport was involved in the project selection process but he failed to point out the duplicity. Furthermore, the MoI did not always properly monitor the projects. During one of its checks, it did not reveal that the results one of the beneficiaries wanted to achieve had already existed.
Finally, the auditors have also focused on a sample of 12 specific projects. For seven of these, there were no major shortcomings. In the case of four projects, they found limited or no use of the projects in practice. The auditors assessed one project as both ineffective and inefficient.
Supreme Audit Office