The ACA audited the COVID-19 measures related to the area of arts and culture
It is unclear how many artists and art mediators were reached by the COVID-19 aid measures. This unclarity stems from insufficient data related to the field of arts and culture. The data available to the bodies responsible for the implementation of the measures did not allow for any conclusions about the group of people reached. Room for improvement has also been detected as regards the ex-post control of the subsidies received. This is revealed by the Austrian Court of Audit (ACA) in its report "COVID-19 Measures for Artists, Cultural Workers and Art Mediators" published today. The audit essentially covered the period from March 2020 to March 2021, during which the federal government provided around EUR 200 million in subsidies and support to address the COVID-19 crisis in the field of arts and culture.
Three entities were responsible for processing the approximately 114,300 applications submitted by artists and art mediators and approved during the audited period:
• the Artists’ Social Insurance Fund, which granted subsidies from the COVID-19 Fund;
• the Social Insurance Institution for the Self-Employed granted aid from the Bridging Fund for Self-Employed Artists;
• the Austrian Economic Chambers processed subsidies from the Hardship Fund.
The funds granted were mainly provided through the federal government's COVID-19 Crisis Management Fund endowed with EUR 28 billion.
Differing offset modalities in the case of a switching to other funds
Basically, a switch from the COVID-19 Fund to the Hardship Fund has been possible from March 2020 on, and from the two latter to the Bridging Finance Fund from July 2020 on. However, different rules existed for these permissible switches as to whether the grants and subsidies already received would be offset: financial aid from the COVID-19 Fund, for example, was to be offset when switching to the Hardship Fund, but not when switching to the Bridging Fund for Self-Employed Artists. Furthermore, multiple funding was possible when switching from the Hardship Fund to the Bridging Fund even if an application had already been made via the Hardship Fund, but had not yet been approved or the funding had not yet been received.
No statement can be made about how many artists and art mediators were reached by the three funds under review and what the reasons for a switch were as there was a lack of corresponding data.
A control concept for ex-post control was lacking
Ex-post control plays a special role because a person could apply for funding from several institutions or could, under special circumstances, receive funding several times, duly or unduly. The ACA criticizes the fact that the Federal Ministry for Arts, Culture, the Civil Service and Sport failed to prepare a concept for ex-post control and that the provisions in the regulations and settlement agreements were not sufficiently clear in this regard.
The ACA therefore issues the recommendation to the Federal Ministry for Arts, Culture, the Civil Service and Sport to prepare, with the participation and interaction of all institutions involved, a clearly defined concept for ex-post control at the Artists’ Social Insurance Fund and the Social Insurance Institution for the Self-Employed in order to uncover inadmissible multiple funding and/or unduly received grants or subsidies.
Hardship Fund: average amount of funding could not be determined
Six per cent of the payments from the Hardship Fund, to which the ACA has dedicated a separate report already published in August 2021, concerned the area defined by the Hardship Fund as arts and culture. This also included the creative industries and arts and crafts.
It is unclear to what extent persons who create or mediate art and culture in the narrower sense were reached by the regulation pertaining to the Hardship Fund. No conclusion could be drawn from the data on the processing of funding by the Austrian Economic Chambers as to the extent to which persons from this sector submitted applications to the Hardship Fund and how decisions were made on these applications. It was not possible either to determine the average amount of funding that was paid out to artists and art mediators via the Hardship Fund.
The ACA recommends to the Federal Ministry for Arts, Culture, the Civil Service and Sport to proactively continue its considerations on improving the statistical data for the field of arts and culture from a cost-benefit perspective.
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Report: COVID-19 Measures for Artists, Cultural Workers and Art Mediators (in German)
From August 2020 to May 2021, the ACA audited the grants and subsidies provided by the federal government for artists and art mediators as a response to the COVID-19 crisis. The audit aimed as assessing the data pertaining to the target groups prior to the pandemic, the reaching of the target groups in the course of the pandemic, the type and extent of the provision of financial aid, the processing of the subsidies and grants as well as the access to and transparency of the subsidies and grants from the perspective of the recipients. The audit essentially covered the period from March 2020 to March 2021.