ANNOUNCEMENT BY THE ASSOCIATION OF POLISH CITIES
Acting upon a motion filed by cities and towns approved for stage two of the “Local Development”
Programme funded by the European Economic Area Financial Mechanism and operated by the Ministry of Development Funds and Regional Policy, the Board of the Association of Polish Cities – during a session in Mielec on 9 July 2021 – appraised the form and progress of the selection procedure, and the manner of proclaiming results.
Pursuant to the Rules of the Programme, stage two was to involve the committee selecting around 15 beneficiaries of grants of approximately EUR 7 million each (for a total funding amount of EUR 102 million) from among around 50 applications identified at stage one of the call, on basis of a substantive assessment of the Local Development Programme and Institutional Development Programme duly presented in each application. Funding was not to exceed EUR million, and such was the cap amount notified to cities and towns filing applications. As nearly all applications specified a request for the aforesaid amount, it was already apparent at that stage that the funding amount would have to be reduced for well-nigh all projects.
In the wake of the pandemic, the date of filing applications under stage two was postponed until 30 November 2020, selection results to be announced within a term of 4-5 months, i.e. by March-April of the following year. The Norwegian party notified us that in the spring of 2021, having carried out their assessment, the Ministry engaged in negotiations with the Norwegian partner with regard to more or less doubling the number of beneficiaries, with the automatic outcome of reducing the average amount of funding by one-half. The Ministry suggested that funds be awarded to all cities and towns who had scored no less than 60% under both assessment criteria (Local Development Programme and Institutional Development Programme), meeting the key requirement of the Rules. This condition was met by 29 cities and towns. After several weeks of negotiations, the Norwegian party consented to the ministry’s postulate justified by “the difficult situation of cities and towns due to the pandemic”, and “the wish to provide assistance to a greater number of municipalities”.
The committee approved the application assessment with no modification on 2 June 2021. Nonetheless, the requirement of the Rules with regard to providing applicants with written information to the effect of closing the assessment procedure for their respective projects, scoring and justification included, had not been met.
Results of the selection procedure were announced over a period of 2-9 July, in a universally criticised format of political marketing, as it were, parliamentary members from the ruling party and media representatives in attendance. Only once that “procedure” had been over, the ranking list for the call was duly proclaimed in conformity to Programme Rules.
The Association of Polish Cities wishes to hereby submit the following objections with regard to aforesaid developments:
- Changing the rules of the game once the procedure is underway, while remaining within boundaries allowed pursuant to Programme Rules, inevitably produces a lack of trust in organisers, which is why such moves should be avoided at all cost.
- The Board believes that justification for said change was untruthful – the difficult situation cities and towns found themselves in in the year 2020 WAS NOT CAUSED by the pandemic, but rather by amendments to the Personal Income Tax system introduced in the year 2019, and the increasingly exacerbated underfunding of the education system.
- Furthermore, changes to the rules of the game constitute an abandonment of project philosophy designed to support integrated development policy planning and delivery. The considerable reduction in funding will give rise to a need to resign from development-targeting activities already restrained by the funding cap, in all actuality precluding any conformity to the complementarity criterion or integrated development requirements. Such moves also breed negative outcomes associated with a sense of justified expectations not having been met.
- The Board shares the belief expressed by multiple local government representatives with regard to the improper – and, most importantly, not provided for pursuant to Programme Rules – form of the “marketing-like announcement” of selection results which had preceded the correct proclamation procedure stipulated by the Rules.
- The Board believes that failing to meet the requirement of notifying municipality applicants without undue delay of assessment results for their respective applications constitutes an unjustified breach to Programme Rule provisions.
Mielec, 9 July 2021
(-) Zygmunt Frankiewicz
PRESIDENT OF THE ASSOCIATION OF POLISH CITIES
 Project Selection Committee, members including representatives of the operator (Ministry of Development Funds and Regional Policy) and Donors (European Economic Area, KS – Norwegian Association of Regional and Local Authorities), during a session on 2 June, on the basis of a ranking list drafted according to assessments awarded to individual applications by a team of evaluators commissioned by the operators pursuant to Programme Rules.