The Accounting Chamber of Ukraine conducted an audit of school safety: 33 per cent of participants in the educational process are not provided with shelters

05.07.2024 09:42

In 2023, UAH 1.5 billion was allocated to provide shelters for participants in the educational process. During the year, almost all funds were distributed among projects, but only 62% of these projects were completed on time, with the number of places in shelters increasing by 22,800, while it was planned to provide shelters for more than 93,000 people. It was also found that within the framework of the implemented projects for the construction of shelters, the fund managers used UAH 210.4 million inefficiently, UAH 65.5 million in violation of the law, of which UAH 1.3 million was damaged, and UAH 1.5 million was misused.

This conclusion was reached by the Accounting Chamber based on the results of the international parallel performance audit on "Civil Protection in Communal Institutions of General Secondary Education". The report on the audit was approved at the meeting on 3 July.

As part of this audit, the Accounting Chamber, in particular, requested information from local authorities and conducted online testing of 3103 educational institutions and directly inspected 88 schools in Vinnytsia, Dnipro, Zakarpattia, Lviv, Odesa, Poltava, Kharkiv, Khmelnytskyi, Kyiv regions and the city of Kyiv.

In particular, the audit found that the Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine did not have information on the number of schools that needed to be provided with safe conditions as of the beginning of 2023. At the same time, according to the information provided to the Accounting Chamber by the regional and Kyiv city military administrations, as of the beginning of 2023, 8117 schools had their own shelters (for 2.3 million students and staff), 3128 schools did not have their own shelters (for 926.5 thousand), and 946 schools had unsuitable shelters (for 227.9 thousand).

Despite the urgent need for safe shelters, about UAH 399 million of the subvention allocated by the state in 2023 was returned to the budget, and as of January 2024, more than 1.13 million participants in the educational process were still not provided with shelters (33.3% of the total).

The Accounting Chamber identified the following reasons for the slow and inefficient use of the subvention funds:

- delay in the development and adoption of the Procedure and Conditions No. 419, which was supposed to regulate the implementation of the relevant projects;

- legalisation of the simplest shelters that do not meet building standards and do not provide reliable protection in the event of rocket attacks and correctable air bomb attacks;

- neglect of regional problems (more than UAH 6 million of the subvention was allocated to the regional budget of Luhansk region, all educational institutions of which were located in the temporarily occupied territory);

- distribution of funds between projects without adherence to the principles of priority;

- slow development of the list of projects.

In addition, as the auditors of the Accounting Chamber found during the inspection of some of the facilities equipped at the expense of the subvention, some educational institutions ignored safety requirements: they equipped walls/floors with ceramic tiles, placed mirrors on the walls, decorated with flammable materials, etc., which can cause significant harm to people's health in the event of an emergency.

Regarding the overall functioning of the civil protection system in general secondary education institutions, the Accounting Chamber auditors found that

47 per cent have no security guards;

54 per cent do not have fire alarm and fire detection systems;

63.4 per cent of the shelters in the institutions do not have free access for persons with disabilities;

63 per cent do not have external and internal video surveillance systems;

32.3 per cent of shelters do not have two or more emergency exits;

"Managers of educational institutions often do not take the proper initiative to address these problems. This leads to insufficient funding for the implementation of security conditions by the founders of the institutions. I hope that our audit will give a clear understanding to the Government and the founders of the need to make sufficient expenditures for these purposes and to effectively control the process of their use," Serhii Kliuchka, Deputy Chairman of the Accounting Chamber,said during the presentation of the Report.

As part of the audit, the Accounting Chamber also identified two cases with features of criminal violations. Information about them will be sent to law enforcement agencies. In addition, the State Inspectorate of Architecture and Urban Development of Ukraine initiated an inspection of another violation, which resulted in the issuance of instructions to the audited entity and the contractor and imposition of significant fines.

As a result, the Accounting Chamber recommended:

the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine:

- to instruct the Ministry of Health, together with the Ministry of Education and Science, to develop state standards/regulations on hygiene requirements, life support systems, and nutrition in civil defence facilities where the educational process takes place.

the Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine:

- to develop and initiate amendments to the Concept of Safety of Educational Institutions in order to define clear indicators, key indicators to be achieved by the end of 2025 to create a safe educational environment in educational institutions;

- to prepare and submit to the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine, in accordance with the established procedure, draft amendments to the Procedure and Conditions No. 419, in particular, in terms of: establishing a requirement to use subvention funds for the construction of new shelters only if they are classified as civil protection structures; introducing measures of influence on the founders of educational institutions for not completing the projects proposed by them for funding at the expense of the subvention by the end of 2024, etc.

Separate recommendations were also made to local authorities and local education authorities.

Representatives of the audited entities present at the Accounting Chamber meeting agreed with the auditors' conclusions and noted that some of the comments are already being addressed, and some of them were taken into account in the process of allocating the subvention for shelters in 2024.

The control measure is an international parallel audit carried out in accordance with the Common Position on the Parallel Audit by the Accounting Chamber and the Court of Auditors of Hesse of the Federal Republic of Germany on the topic "Civil Protection in Communal Institutions of General Secondary Education", signed on 23 January 2024 in Darmstadt (Germany). A joint statement with the German side on this audit will be released later.