SAO: The Czech Republic still lacks a comprehensive system for the protection of soft targets

The Czech Republic still lacks a comprehensive system for protecting so-called soft targets from terrorist attacks.

This is the result of an audit by the Supreme Audit Office (SAO), which examined how the Ministries of the Interior (MoI), Culture (MoC) and Health (MoH) allocated money for the system of protection of soft targets, i.e. schools and public spaces, hospitals or cultural facilities against terrorist and other attacks, between 2016 and 2021.

In response, the Home Office said that the audit was focused on supporting increased resilience of soft targets, not the whole system.

The auditors focused not only on how grants were allocated, but also on how ministries were meeting targets or evaluating the impact of the money distributed.”

Although the Czech Republic has been dealing with this issue since 2010, ministries still have not started supporting investments that are supposed to lead to the protection of soft targets and enable them to respond in the event of an attack in a way that minimises damage,” the SAO said.

The Soft Target Protection Concept 2017-2020 was approved in 2017. According to the auditors, it was not until two years later that all three ministries mentioned above started providing financial support for so-called non-investment programmes.

They mainly included the development of security analyses and documentation to enhance soft target protection, as well as the organisation of training, seminars, and exercises. This was then to be followed by concrete investments from 2021 onwards.

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According to the auditors, the problem started at the level of the concept for 2017 to 2020, where the Ministry of the Interior did not set measurable goals it wanted to achieve.

By setting specific measurable targets according to the SAO’s mechanical requirements would mean that the government would have to state in its document that, for example, a certain number of attacks on soft targets is acceptable and that it wants to reduce it to XY number. “This is not only contrary to the objectives of security policy, but especially humanly unacceptable,” said ministry spokeswoman Klara Dlubalová.

According to its spokeswoman, the Interior Ministry’s approach to protecting soft targets does not deviate in any way from the normal standards of other EU states and has acted in full compliance with the applicable government resolutions. She added that the state’s anti-terrorism policy must always be focused on real positive developments for the security of citizens and not on indicators that, although easily measurable, are not relevant to security.

According to the ministry, the soft target protection concept for 2017-2020 still contains valid principles that can be universally applied to soft target protection regardless of the timeframe of the document.

The SAO also found weaknesses related to the implementation of non-investment programmes. The ministries spent CZK 194 million of the planned CZK 347 million on them between 2019 and 2021.

According to the auditors, the Interior Ministry distributed the money without taking into account the actual needs identified in advance.

Although the ministries of culture and health initially created a plan to increase protection of selected priority soft targets based on needs, selecting 46 hospitals and 57 cultural facilities for non-investment programs, they later abandoned the plan by expanding the number of beneficiaries, the auditors said.