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NIK on floods (1994-2012)

Starting from 1994 the Supreme Audit Office has checked the condition of flood protection in different parts of Poland a dozen or so times already.

These are the findings:

What has been done thanks to the NIK audits, works of following governments, works of subsequent Sejm Deputies and of local governments?

  • relevant legal acts on crisis management have been developed which resulted in high-quality flood response plans,
  • land use plans have been drawn up in many communes which has stopped construction development on floodplains (there is still a lot to do in that matter, though),
  • areas between the riverbank and riverbed have been ordered to a large extent,
  • crisis management methods have been improved,
  • monitoring and hydro-meteorological system has been set up,
  • investments in river basins have been started, mainly in the Odra River, among others using funds from the EU and the World Bank (the key investment in Racibórz is still proceeding too slowly).

What should be done e.g. based on the to-date NIK audits?

  • clearly define competences of individual institutions in terms of preventing floods;
  • care about flood banks and maintenance of rivers, brooks, streams and roadside ditches, by making inspections and consequential works;
  • invest in the systems of hydrotechnical structures and machines in the Odra and Vistula Rivers;
  • not allow land development on floodplains - further specify provisions of law in that regard, take attempts to move residents of floodplains to safe places to live in.


Review of key audits in 1998 - 2012:

In 1998, a dozen or so months after the end of the ”flood of the century”, NIK wrote in its report:  

”Recommendations of the Supreme Audit Office presented in the pronouncement on results of the audit on task performance related to the flood protection of 1994 were not implemented in general.

They were related to organisational and legal issues, namely: (…)

  • defining clear rules of protecting floodplains before land development and restoring the original state,
  • stopping the process of depreciation of the existing flood protection structures and devices, including restoration of original natural functions to polders in river valleys,
  • timely removal of flood damages.”

In its report NIK also enumerates the most significant irregularities related to the activities taken by the central and local government administration during the 1997 flood:

”1.Until 1997 no concept of flood protection or long-term comprehensive national flood protection programme has been developed or adopted by the Government.

2. Investment outlays on water management having direct impact on the condition of national flood protection state have decreased systematically in comparison with the gross domestic product and investment outlays in the national economy.

3. The audit findings show that improper maintenance of the areas lying between the flood bank and the riverbed did not guarantee free outflow of accumulated waters because of growing trees as well as buildings and other structures and buildings erected there. As a consequence, the flood threat was higher there.

4. The heads of District offices did not use their rights under Article 68 of the Water Law Act which provided that in case some works or activities potentially hampering flood protection are performed on the flood bank or in its neighbourhood, between the flood bank and the river bed or flood-threatened unbanked area, the head of the District Office may order to restore the former state.

5. The audits revealed further deterioration of the technical condition of the river hydrotechnical development, including flood banks.

6. The audit findings show that the land use plan did not sufficiently contribute to limiting the flood impact on the volume and size of flood damages. There was no statutory obligation to agree upon land use plans of the communes in terms of the administration of floodplains.

7. Flood protection committees at all levels were not prepared to fulfil their statutory tasks.

8. There was no hydrometeorological protection ready to act in rapidly growing flood phenomena. The measurement and forecasting system based on meteorological radars was not in place.”

Re-evaluation of measures taken by public administration related to the removal of consequences of the ”flood of the century” was made following the audit of 2000. It confirmed that the flood protection in Poland did not improve yet.

The national flood protection programme was not ready yet and the investment outlays on flood protection were not any higher.

The condition of hydrometeorological system did not get any better, it was still unprepared to act in rapidly growing flood phenomena. The automatic measurement system was implemented only to a little degree.

The audit findings showed as well that the public administration was not fully prepared to perform tasks related to the removal of consequences of natural disasters.

NIK underlined the need for the Government to develop and submit to the Sejm the long-term national flood protection programme which had been requested by NIK many a time until then, including the state policy in terms of renovation and modernisation of the existing devices, as well as building new facilities and  pointing to the sources of financing. 

Another flood-related audit conducted in 2004 was related to how the public administration performed its tasks with regard to big and small water retention.  

Following the audit of 2004, it was established that the water management in terms of retention was performed without prospective strategic or programme assumptions, and the efforts related to their development were insufficient.

The programmes developed and modified for years, including development of small and big retention and protection of water resources as well as increase of the flood capacity, did not gain acceptance and were not implemented.

A small number of technical inspections of water devices, as well as not fully implemented post-audit recommendations, limited funds for maintenance and renovation of water-retaining structures and facilities are the main reasons why their technical condition and safety did not improve, the more so because a half of the structures were built more than 50 years ago, and every third of them before 1939.

The efforts to ensure timely completion of investments, including long-term ones - construction of water reservoirs, barrages and weirs, previously financed only from the state budget and the National Fund of Environmental Protection and Water Management - did not bring expected effects. The funds allocated to water management institutions went down systematically. Besides, they were not fully used in different years.

In 2006, NIK sent to the Sejm information on the condition of flood securities in Karpaty region. Among others, the report said:  

”The Supreme Audit Office negatively evaluates the way local government units discharged their obligation to furnish and maintain flood stores. From among the local government units covered by the audit only one poviat (Lubaczów) and 3 communes (Włodawa, Lubaczów, Stubno) built and furnished the flood stores, as required.

In 2007, NIK checked how the ”Programme for the Odra River 2006” was being implemented. Some of the NIK’s findings stated that:  

„(…) the Programme established in 2001 in response to the citizens’ expectations after the disastrous flood in the Odra River basin of 1997 was not properly prepared for implementation. The Government Plenipotentiary for the Odra River Programme 2006, being the Lower Silesia Governor, did not discharge the statutory duties, nor did the Programme Steering Committee chaired by him, being an opinion providing body of the President of the Council of Ministers. Those bodies did not fulfil their duties properly.

The Programme plans and schedules were no longer developed.

Efforts to obtain funds  from non-budget financing sources were taken with delay, in a limited scope and without visible effects, which should be considered as unreliable.

The state budget financing was effected with 1 year delay (since 2003) - as part of the state budget reserves for the Programme.

The absence of the Programme plans and schedules resulted in arbitrariness in qualifying tasks and unreliable reports on the progress of implementing its assumptions.

Some publications and programmes were used in a limited scope which questions usefulness of ordering them and economy of spending public funds.  

The Programme was implemented with delay as to its scope and deadlines in the part concerning investment and modernisation tasks specified by name in the Act on the Programme Setup. In the period 2002-2005, PLN 599.1 million was spent to perform these tasks, which makes up 41.7 percent of the planned outlays in that period (PLN 1,437.2 million).

The findings of to-date audits were to a large extent confirmed by the ad hoc audit of 2008, verifying task performance in terms of small water retention by the Provincial  Boards of Amelioration and Water Structures in Cracow, Poznań and Warsaw.

Measures taken by the Provincial  Boards of Amelioration related to the maintenance of administered hydrotechnical structures and facilities in a proper technical condition were assessed as insufficient.

It was established that water retention capacity was increased insignificantly and the technical condition of hydrotechnical structures and facilities did not improve. Insufficient funds were the main reason why indispensable repairs and renovations of the hydrotechnical infrastructure were made only partially or not at all.

The number of hydrotechnical structures and facilities (e.g. flood banks) of unsatisfactory technical condition increased in the area of operation of audited Amelioration Boards. According to NIK, the lack of essential funds for that purpose led to further degradation of hydrotechnical structures and facilities. Considering long-term negligence in that matter, as well as the fact that the currently used infrastructure is overloaded as no new hydrotechnical structures are built, this may pose a threat to safety of those structures and consequentially to people’s life or health.

In 2009 NIK checked the management of funds in the period 2007 -2008 as part of the Project for Flood Protection in the Odra River Basin.

The NIK inspectors stated that:

”On 11 May 2007, the Republic of Poland, by concluding the Loan Agreement with the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (the World Bank) obtained investment outlays of EUR 140.1 million for the undertaking called the Project for Flood Protection in the Odra River Basin. Via the Loan Agreement of the same date, Poland acquired investment outlays of EUR 204.9 million from the Council of Europe Development Bank. The funds obtained as part of those agreements were an element of financing of the Project for Flood Protection in the Odra River Basin, of which the total implementation cost was estimated at EUR 505.0 million. It was assumed that the missing funds would come from the state budget - EUR 30 million and from the European Union funds - EUR 130.0 million.

NIK negatively evaluates the task performance level and the Project management method from the agreement signing date, that is from 11 May 2007 to 31 December 2008. As a  result, Poland used only a small portion of money left to disposal (0.69 percent of available funds). There are significant delays still.

The delays in organisational terms were related mainly to the Coordination Bureau which only in 2008 (after the Director change in January 2008) obtained essential premises, concluded agreements with consultants and updated the Project procedures. Also the Steering Committee was less active than required in the audited period.

Although Poland performed its tasks in a limited scope, it had to pay the debt service costs set out in the agreement (more than 3.5 million). Besides, since the Polish side had no funds in 2008, only the funds from the World Bank were spent.”
In March 2010, NIK negatively evaluated functioning of the flood protection system in Małopolskie and Świętokrzyskie Provinces.

The NIK’s report said that:  

The losses caused by floods keep growing. Within the last three years only in Małopolskie and Świętokrzyskie Provinces they totalled nearly PLN 1 billion. However, the audits of flood banks are still neglected, as is the maintenance of streams, brooks and roadside ditches.

A half of flood banks in Małopolska region does not guarantee safety. In Świętokrzyskie region the length of flood banks in a poor technical condition is growing (in 2007, it was 27 percent and in 2008 - 30 percent). Despite that, only 5 percent of flood banks in Małopolska Province and 12 percent in Świętokrzyskie Province have valid results of technical inspections. Provincial Boards of Amelioration and Water Structures justify their negligence by the lack of funds.

The most severe negligence was related to the maintenance of streams and brooks. In 2008, only 7 percent of brooks and streams were maintained in Małopolskie Province and 36 percent in Świętokrzyskie Province, although the greatest losses in the recent years (more than 80 percent) occurred mainly as a result of overflow of agricultural watercourses.

None of the audited communes had records of roadside ditches and half of them did not clean the ditches at all. The audited poviats cleaned less than 10 percent of the ditches. At the same time, the greatest losses and damages were related to the road infrastructure.

The Water Law Act imposed an obligation on the President of the National Water Management Authority to develop the flood protection plan for Poland. That plan has not been drawn up until this day. Also works on the implementation of the basic Directive 2007/60/WE of the European Parliament on the assessment and management of flood risks are delayed. This Directive should have been implemented in the Polish legal framework by the end of November last year. Unfortunately, it was not the case. Therefore, the development of maps, descriptions and forecasts that should be part of the document required by the Directive is delayed as well. The document has to be ready by the end of 2011.

In February 2012, NIK presented a report on flood protection in the Odra river basin.

It said that the tasks performed as part of the ”Programme for the Odra River 2006” could contribute to reducing losses caused by flood only locally. They did not impact the overall situation, though. Nor did they increase the safety of residents, especially in large cities and on the areas where floods are frequent and violent. From the last Programme audit covering the period 2001-2006, no visible progress in its implementation has been observed.

The Programme completion is planned for 2016 which means that 60 percent of the time designated for its implementation has passed already. Until the end of 2010, six of thirteen planned tasks were completed. But of 17 tasks which should have at least been started by the end of 2010, none was implemented in line with the schedule. At the end of 2011, the situation was no better. The investments being critical for the Programme and improvement of the flood protection system for the Odra River basin have not been started yet. They include construction of water reservoirs in Racibórz, Wielowieś Klasztorna, Kamieniec Ząbkowicki and modernisation of Wrocław Water Junction. Some investments were started or implemented with significant delays, up to several years. They covered for instance: modernisation of polder system in the basin of Nysa Kłodzka, Kaczawa and Bóbr rivers, modernisation of flood banks in the basin of Odra river along with Warta, direct flood protection of Kłodzko and Słubice towns. The delays in the Programme implementation are among others related to the fact that the funds planned for its execution were used to finance other works (e.g. renovation and maintenance). NIK has pointed out, however, that only investment tasks should be financed from the Programme funds.  

The condition of flood banks is still poor. The audit of the Regional Water Management Authorities and proper structures as part of provincial governments has shown that the condition of flood banks (which lie within their responsibility) may pose a safety threat. The analysis of documents concerning more than 3.5 thousand km of flood banks revealed that 1.6 thousand km of them is in a poor or disastrous condition. Besides, four of ten authorities administering flood banks did not have full information in that matter as they did not conduct periodic inspections required by the law. One of the causes of the facilities’ poor condition was the lack of funds that the administrators should receive for the statutory activity, i.e. for on-going maintenance of flood banks. Therefore, they used the money designated for the Programme implementation, which made the existing delays even longer.

In October 2012, NIK readdressed the flood protection issue.  

The NIK’s report stated that the technical state of hydrotechnical structures in Poland is worsening and that there are not enough new ones. In 2008, there were 30 potentially safety-threatening water-retaining structures checked by the regional authorities and in 2010 their number went up to 41. According to the General Construction Supervision Office, 70 percent of water-retaining structures is more than 25 years old (of which more than 30 percent is over 50). Some of the structures are older than 100 years (especially shipping sluices). Nevertheless, not their age is a problem but the absence of maintenance and renovation which leads to the facilities’ degradation. Within 2 years covered by the audit, the Regional Water Management Authorities failed to make the scheduled 84 renovations of water-retaining structures and flood banks, although 50 of them were qualified as the 1st urgency level, which stands for a real danger in case of a potential flood. Besides, there are nearly 2 thousand damages on the rivers, brooks and water engineering structures waiting for renovations -  of which more than a half is at the 1st urgency level.

Author: , Date of creation: 2013-06-11 10:22:26