Distribution of EU funds in Poland seen as flawed by local officials
The selection of projects for billions of euros of EU funding in Poland is widely perceived by Polish municipalities to be politically-driven and non-transparent, new research conducted by Bankwatch member group the Institute of Environmental Economics (IEE) has found.
18 October 2007
The selection of projects for billions of euros of EU funding in Poland is widely perceived by Polish municipalities to be politically-driven and non-transparent, new research conducted by Bankwatch member group the Institute of Environmental Economics (IEE) has found. 
The alarming findings are based on an anonymous questionnaire survey of 160 Polish municipalities on how they view the process of appraisal and selection of projects that applied for funding to the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) between 2004 and 2006.  The results show that 49 percent of the municipalities believe that the project selection procedure was non-transparent and 44 percent that it was not objective. Fifty-two percent of the respondents see politically-driven choices as one of the main weaknesses of the project selection system. 
Anna Dworakowska, of the Institute of Environmental Economics, said: “Our research findings back up the argument that there is a clear need for improving the project selection process for EU funded projects in Poland and other member states. The lack of a correct project selection process means that EU funds are not being spent on the most necessary and beneficial projects.”
Previous IEE research has found that regional politicians and officials in Poland often overrule independent evaluation by experts. Projects that received the highest number of points on the ranking list by experts are subsequently often turned down, while projects evaluated as much worse receive EU money without any objective grounding and explanation. 
Anna Dworakowska said: “The problem is that no one from the municipalities will speak up openly because if they do they could say farewell to EU money for the next couple of years. Our anonymous questionnaires allowed municipal officials to say what they think”
The IEE has also experienced difficulties in obtaining any information about selected projects in Poland. It has had to start legal actions in order to receive only very short descriptions of financed projects.
Anna Dworakowska said: “The Polish government must first of all ensure that those experts evaluating projects are truly independent. There must also be less room for regional officials to arbitrarily change the experts ranking, and wherever it happens there should be a proper justification. Finally, more information about the financed projects must be publicly available.”
Poland is currently finalising its negotiations with the European Commission on the plans and rules for using the EU funds in the 2007-2013 period that will see EUR 67 billion disbursed in Poland alone.
Martin Konecny, EU funds project coordinator for CEE Bankwatch Network and Friends of the Earth Europe, said: “These research findings should also serve as a wake-up call to the European Commission at the start of the 2007-2013 funding period. The Commission should not tolerate billions of EU taxpayers resources in Poland being spent on projects that have not been evaluated as the best ones. A system where regional officials can override expert evaluation and arbitrarily select projects without explanation allows huge potential for corruption.”
For more information
Institute of Environmental Economics, Krakow
Tel.: +48 12 631 90 80
Mob.: +48 607 94 00 47
Email: ania AT iee.org.pl
EU funds project coordinator, Brussels
Tel.: +32 25 42 01 85
Mob.: +32 484 601283
Email: martin.konecny AT foeeurope.org
Policy Coordinator at CEE Bankwatch Network, Brussels
Tel.: +32 25 42 01 88
Mob.: +32 475 867637
Email: magdas AT bankwatch.org
Notes for editors
 The research report and summary (in Polish) can be downloaded from the Institute’s website.
Key results of the IEE survey:
“How do you evaluate transparency of the project selection process in the Integrated Regional Development Operational Programme?”
- very transparent: 3%
- rather transparent: 37%
- rather little transparent: 38%
- very little transparent: 11%
- difficult to say: 12%
“How do you generally evaluate the objectivity of the project selection process in the Integrated Regional Development Operational Programme?”
- very objective: 4%
- rather objective: 37%
- rather little objective: 31%
- very little objective: 13%
- difficult to say: 15%
“What are the main weaknessess of the project selection and appraisal system?”
- too many institutions involved in project selection: 63%
- politically-driven decisions: 52%
- lack of proper justification for decisions refusing the financing: 48%
 The questionnaires were sent by post to officials responsible for structural funds management in their municipality.
 For example, one of the typical answers received in the survey was the following: Regional management’s decisions are 100% political, the municipalities that did not have connections stood very low chances for receiving co-financing.
 For example, in 2005 the Management of the Podlaskie Region (the regional body which makes the final decisions) approved ERDF financing for projects which were at the following places according to the ranking by experts: 2, 6, 7, 12 and 16. Only these five projects out of 21 applications received funding. So the project that ranked 16th according to the experts was selected by the regional officials while projects assessed on the 1st, 3rd, 4th and 5th place were passed over. As a justification, the project description form was simply copied and pasted from the project application.
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Institution: EU Funds