NIK about effects of revitalisation programmes

Revitalisation, sometimes still wrongly associated only with restoration of monuments, is a complex process which is to help handle the crisis in degraded areas. It aims at improving the area management and the life quality of its inhabitants. Communes too often consider revitalisation programmes only as a formal requirement which has to be met to apply for the EU subsidies. It was shown by the previous audit of NIK in 2018 and confirmed by the latest one.

By the audit end date, the spending on accomplished projects or the ones in progress totalled PLN 432 million, which is only ⅓ of the plan adopted in the revitalisation programmes by the audited communes. Four of them spent only 4-7% of the planned funds.

Full and objective evaluation was impossible, though, because of the way the programmes’ execution was monitored. The majority of audited communes failed to update the Commune Revitalisation Programmes and Local Revitalisation Programmes or analyse their efficiency (although it was set out in the programmes’ assumptions).  

According to NIK, marginal involvement of local inhabitants in the programmes’ implementation and monitoring was a big problem. Only sporadically mature forms of the so-called social participation were used by the communes, allowing their inhabitants to co-decide about measures taken in their interest, and also control them.

Delayed works in nearly all communes

According to NIK the audited communes focused more on obtaining subsidies and executing single projects than on complex and complementary revitalisation. Only every second commune concentrated on the revitalisation area and on issues identified there. In others, the projects in progress (due to their limited scale) were not interrelated. As a result, they did not bring about expected or lasting effects.

All the audited communes started to realise initiatives planned in the programmes. However, in none of them the revitalisation process was carried out in a full scope. Only one commune met deadlines set in those documents. As a consequence, as of the audit end date, full implementation of adopted assumptions and achievement of planned effects was threatened in 15 communes and in some cases it was unrealistic.

All in all, 394 revitalisation initiatives were planned in the audited period, of which:

  • 124 projects were accomplished (31%), but assumptions of every fifth project were not met or the project scope was limited. The funds spent on those tasks totalled PLN 160 million;
  • 116 projects (30%) were in progress, PLN 272 million was spent on them by the audit end date;
  • 154 projects were not executed or were abandoned (39%).

NIK auditors also reported cases where the failure to execute one project (particularly in the technical- or spatial and functional areas), excluded the execution of others.

Financing projects

Why did the audited communes not implement the planned projects? The communes’ authorities explained that the main reason was the shortage of funds, mainly from external sources. The NIK audit revealed also other causes – the communes did not look for alternative sources of financing or the scope of projects executed by them was smaller than planned. In some cases the communes abandoned projects, without updating the revitalisation programmes at the same time.

Only half of the audited communes received subsidies for revitalisation from marshal offices as part of individual Regional Operational Programmes for 2014-2020. Other communes did not realise initiatives using those subsidies, and five of them did not even apply for them.

Funds for activities supporting revitalisation were planned within the framework of the Regional Operational Programmes. As part of those activities, 534 revitalisation projects were selected in line with adopted assumptions and transparent criteria. The total of PLN 1.9 billion was earmarked for them. Irregularities related to the call for projects were found only in two marshal offices. E.g. in some cases projects were scored against applicable criteria or protests related to the call for projects were not reviewed.

According to NIK, adequate planning of activities is essential. Complexity of the revitalisation process should be taken into account on the one hand and the audit results on the other. Risk is high that some communes will execute revitalisation programmes only within the scope of tasks for which the local government or other entities involved in the process will obtain external financing (information acquired by NIK in the communes not covered by the audit confirms that). As a consequence, projects as part of the revitalisation programmes will be carried out at random – not on an extensive basis – which will prevent achieving planned, comprehensive effects.

Incomplete monitoring and unreliable evaluations

Another risk identified by NIK is that the revitalisation programmes will be developed only to apply for the EU funds. It should be a tool for complex and integrated management of activities taken as part of these programmes. For instance, it is essential to properly plan their monitoring to al

reliable evaluation of to what extent the changes taking place comply with adopted assumptions and deadlines.

The NIK audit revealed that in as many 11 of 17 audited communes the monitoring and evaluation system was not properly planned. The key reason was that the communes accepted revitalisation programmes developed by external companies without due diligence. It was not without significance that documents developed and adopted in this way, were accepted by marshal offices.

However, regardless of whether the system was planned properly or not, in all the audited communes the monitoring and ongoing evaluation were carried out in a way which did not allow full, objective and reliable evaluation of the revitalisation process – whether ongoing or final. Two of the audited communes did not take any measures in that respect. The activities taken by others were incomplete and non-compliant with assumptions defined in the revitalisation programmes.

According to NIK, in all the audited communes, the monitoring and evaluation made up only a draft of the system which did not exist in practice. It not only prevented taking proper actions or making changes in a good time but also increased the risk that the evaluation of the entire revitalisation process and achievement of its objectives will be incomplete and non-objective.

The effective period of most revitalisation programmes ends in 2023 or 2025. Therefore, according to NIK, all endeavours should be taken to eliminate or at least significantly reduce irregularities revealed by NIK auditors in that respect.

Low involvement of local communities in revitalisation process

One of two principal effects of the revitalisation should be improvement of life quality among inhabitants of degraded areas. Therefore, NIK stands in a position that local communities should be involved in each stage of revitalisation activities. The so-called mature forms of social participation – involvement in decision-taking and citizen control – are vital. They are not commonly applied, though, especially at the stage of implementation and monitoring.

Only in one of 17 audited communes (Jastrzębie-Zdrój) a larger group of inhabitants, local communities, institutions or organisations were effectively involved in the revitalisation process. All the parties involved had a real impact on activities, evaluations and changes as part of the revitalisation programme.

Three communes did not take any measures of this type, others limited themselves mainly to publishing information on projects in progress and to holding consultations. In nearly half of them selected individuals (inhabitants or representatives of local organisations) could participate in works of the revitalisation committees. NIK stands in a position, though, that those committees only simulated their opinion-making and advisory function. In an extreme case, one of them was established only after over a year from the moment the commune council passed a resolution in that matter.

According to NIK, the main reasons why communes do not take advantage of social participation or limit its forms include: 

  • local communities are not interested in the revitalisation process;
  • authorities believe it is not essential or justified;
  • participation techniques are not adjusted to the local community;
  • individuals/ groups of individuals or revitalisation committees/ teams to initiate activities in that area were not appointed.

According to NIK, low engagement of local authorities in social participation and marginal involvement of local inhabitants, organisations or institutions in implementation and monitoring of the revitalisation programmes will have adverse impact on comprehensive and complementary implementation of projects.

NIK recommendations

To the Minister of Finance, Funds and Regional Policy to:

  • propagate experiences and good practices related to revitalisation,
  • analyse revitalisation procedures to streamline the process execution,
  • consider developing additional templates or guidelines, covering monitoring and evaluation of the Revitalisation Programmes,
  • analyse to-date experiences in implementing the Revitalisation Programmes and drawing relevant conclusions, particularly in view of the need to carry out revitalisation after 2023 exclusively based on the Commune Revitalisation Programmes.

To provincial boards to:

  • intensify advisory and training measures, in particular to fully understand the essence of revitalisation, as well as implementation, monitoring and evaluation of the Revitalisation Programmes,
  • use the revitalisation potential and experience to support local government units in performing tasks related to that process.

To communes’ executive bodies to:

  • ensure partner approach and effective cooperation with various groups of stakeholders, using mature forms of social participation, if possible,
  • take efforts to intensify works of revitalisation committees in a way ensuring their opinion-making and advisory function,
  • focus revitalisation activities on complex solving of problems occurring in degraded areas, particularly considering the social sphere,
  • take efforts to provide an effective system of monitoring and evaluation of the Revitalisation Programmes,
  • update the Revitalisation Programmes in case some changes appear necessary,
  • take efforts to obtain external funds from different sources to implement the planned revitalisation projects,
  • introduce work organisation and management system for the Revitalisation Programmes, in a way ensuring their complete and effective implementation.

To local law-making bodies to:

  • enforce reliable discharge of obligations from communes’ executive bodies in terms of implementation, monitoring and evaluation of the Revitalisation Programmes.

 

Article informations

Date of creation:
16 September 2021 16:38
Date of publication:
16 September 2021 16:38
Published by:
Marta Połczyńska
Date of last change:
16 September 2021 16:38
Last modified by:
Marta Połczyńska
Examples of revitalisation effects (before and after photos of a hall, green and railway station)

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