Land classification based on soil science is mostly a fiction

Land classification based on soil science is an underlying source of data on soils in Poland. Therefore, NIK has decided to take this area under the microscope. The Ombudsman’s suggestion has also been helpful. He has noted for over a decade now that the Polish law does not define selection criteria or qualification requirements for land classifiers. It means that any person authorised by the district governor can be a land classifier, which poses a risk of improperly conducted classification. 

NIK found significant irregularities in each of the audited districts of Kujawsko-Pomorskie Province. They were related to 94% audited proceedings, or 478 out of 511 audited ones.

Problems started already at the stage of selecting classifiers. Due to the lack of a statutory regulation, proceedings conducted by district governors were not standardised. Half of them acted in a non-transparent way, as they failed to define or publish requirements to be met by candidates for classifiers. In other districts qualification requirements were introduced in October 2018 and were defined in diverse ways.

Lands were usually assessed by classifiers who were not designated by district governors but by persons or institutions applying for classification. That was also the case in 77% of audited proceedings. In 41% of such cases, reports on field assessments were prepared before the  district office started its proceedings, that is in fact without the body conducting the classification. No wonder, then, that the NIK auditors as well as experts and specialists, following field inspections detected inaccurate data in 88% of classification documents. In 10 of 16 of those documents the soil quality class was underestimated. In accordance with the auditors’ calculations, inadequate classification only of the lands covered by the field assessment made the audited local governments lose nearly PLN 205 thousand of the budget revenue.

In 334 audited cases, soil scientists were paid by land owners who settled accounts with them without district governors’ knowledge.  NIK has alarmed that in that situation  impartiality and independence of classifiers may be violated because they issued opinions being in the conflict of interests which is considered as one of mechanisms leading to corruption.  

In each of the audited district offices the NIK audit identified irregularities related to running and updating the land and property register. Inaccurate or untimely input of data due to issued classification decisions was identified in 31% of cases (158 of 511). Based on information NIK obtained from tax authorities competent in terms of agricultural, forest and real property taxes it was established that the difference in calculating those taxes resulting from delayed data input to the register, totalled PLN 3.4 thousand, to the disadvantage of taxpayers. It was even worse as regards delays in notifying tax authorities about data changes in the register (46% of audited proceedings, i.e. 233 of 511). In an extreme case those authorities were informed about changes to the register after 4 years and 8 months.

In over 50% of the audited cases (265 of 511), district governors issued decisions to establish land classification with delays. In 173 proceedings the parties’ right was violated to get familiar with the land classification project before issuing the decision and to file potential reservations.

In six districts, ex officio classification of 763 ha lands (538 ha reclaimed and 225 ha non-classified) was abandoned.

Recommendations

In view of the audit results NIK has made the following recommendations:

to the Minister of Development, Labour and Technology in agreement with the Minister of Agriculture and Development to:

  • urgently implement legislative changes to the geodetic and cartographic laws, precisely defining required qualifications for land classifiers.

to the Minister of Development, Labour and Technology to:

  • implement legislative changes to the ordinance on land and property register, by setting a deadline for the district governor to notify tax authorities of data changes relevant for property, agricultural and forest tax levels.

to district governors to:

  • strengthen supervision over classification proceedings, in particular to ensure accuracy and reliability of data in land classification projects;
  • ensure classification based on soil science to all land types subject to ex officio classification, especially to reclaimed lands;
  • make changes to the land and property register arising from final classification decisions by the required date;  
  • verify if the land and property register is up-to-date with regard to lands owned by the district or district organisational units.

Article informations

Date of creation:
14 July 2021 15:40
Date of publication:
14 July 2021 15:40
Published by:
Marta Połczyńska
Date of last change:
14 July 2021 15:40
Last modified by:
Marta Połczyńska
Photo collage: a soil pit showing the soil profile morphology, photos of variably classified lands, map of lands with land markings.

Read content once again