The Austrian audit office (Rechnungshof) has called for more action against environmental crimes, such as illegal waste dumping, in a recent review spanning the years 1994-98. It criticised the country's interior ministry, as well as a lack of cooperation between Austria's nine provinces and 14 police departments.
According to the report, only one-third of police officers in charge of eco-crimes had adequate training. There are currently some 48 investigators specialising in eco-crimes, down from 53 in 1996. The audit office complained that failures to deal with transgressions of environmental laws also reduced funding for the authorities, for example through avoidance of waste management fees.
Its report recommends development of a new strategy on eco-crimes, better cooperation between police units and also between the police and environmental authorities, and more training for investigators.
The interior ministry has responded by accepting that problems exist and blaming a lack of staff. It said that plans were underway to integrate environmental with health and safety inspection, which should lead to provision of a total of 600 officers "within a couple of years".Follow Up:
Austrian audit office, tel: +43 1 711 710; Austrian interior ministry, tel: +43 1 531 260
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