Do we spend money from the Solecki Fund?

First data concerning the disbursement of the Solecki Fund for 2010 are available. Even though the data are incomplete, they show the scale of Solecki Fund separation, its real disbursement as well as the amounts of refund from the state budget, which went back to the communes.

It seems that the first year with the Solecki Fund has passed quite efficiently. Even though the communes usually did not spend the whole separated amount of money, they usually spent a significant part of it. Taking into account confusion and doubts in the first year of Solecki Fund implementation, this seems to be a good result.

The Solecki Fund act came into force on April 2009, first resolutions concerning the Solecki Fund were passed by commune councils till June 30th 2009 and they were referring to the funds for 2010. Applications from villages were delivered till the end of September 2009, and they were realized in 2010. Settlements of the funds that were spent in 2010 could have been submitted by communes by the end of May 2011. A percentage refund (10,20 or 30% of incurred expenses depending on the commune’s income) of the amount of money spent within the Solecki Fund from the state budget should have been on communes’ accounts till the end of August 2011.

2010 – the first year of the Solecki Fund
The first year was undoubtedly difficult, the law came into force very quickly and there was a problem with the information how it should be introduced. Many communes had to learn how to implement the Solecki Fund in practice, with not sufficient background. Despite all these initial difficulties, almost a half of Polish rural and urban-rural communes separated the Solecki Fund for 2010.
The mentioned data show that not all the money separated as Solecki Fund were spend in communes. The question that comes to mind is – why, what has happend? We have decided to ask local authorities about that. Did not villages submit applications, or maybe applications were delivered but they have not been realized or maybe some unexpected circumstances during the year obstructed implementation of projects from Solecki Fund?

In order to answer these questions a telephone survey has been conducted among the communes, which spent in 2010 less than 40% of the funds separated as the Solecki Fund.

First question concerned the cause of such low disbursement of the funds. Second, whether in these communes the Solecki Fund have been separated for consecutive years – 2011 and 2012. We also asked whether an informational action concerning the Solecki Fund had been performed in 2009, whether any training had been provided and if heads of villages and inhabitants had been given support during activities.

The received answers can be divided in two groups: these which come from communes which have decided to continue activities with the Solecki Fund, and these which have decided to give up the Solecki Fund after the first experience.

The lack of information and wrong disbursement
In many communes where disbursement was at the low level it had been caused by the lack of knowledge and experience. There had been neither competent people nor reliable source of information concerning what for and how the Solecki Fund can be spend. This is why some activities had been planned incorrectly and they could not have been settled as the Solecki Fund. There also had been examples where the operate subject had not been commune, but for example cultural institution, and some part of the funds had lost character of the Solecki Fund. In these cases, local authorities highlighted that the funds had been spent for planned activities, and only because of official considerations they did not appear in the statement delivered to the governor.
It also happened that the cost of the planned activities had been wrongly estimated and they could not have been realized as the funds had not been sufficient. Then those activities had been aborted and it was assumed that in the next year more work would be necessary to estimate the costs and check them. There was also a situation when applications submitted by villages had concerned contribution to bigger investments (canalization) and, as it turned out later, they could not have been a part of an investment published and budgeted many years ago.

Authorities of communes where such situations occurred, usually highlighted that after this first experience they know how not to make the same mistakes again. It was also stressed that nowadays it is more easier to find answers for arising questions and queries.

Communes which did not spent the whole amount of the funds because of reasons mentioned above, usually have decided to continue activities with the Solecki Fund and they have passed resolution to separate the Solecki Fund for 2011 and 2012.

Unfortunate accidents
In some communes the reason why the Solecki Fund has not been entirely spend were unfortunate accidents, like a flood in commune, burglary at school and stealing of equipment, or other misfortunes. Those incidents had caused that the Solecki Fund was spent only for some time, till it has been decided to spend the funds on the other objective – aid for flood victims, donation for school, etc. because of seriousness of the situation and common interest of inhabitants, those changes were made with inhabitants’ permission and what is more they were inspired by the inhabitants of individual villages and heads of villages. These communes also have decided to separate the Solecki Fund in the following years.

Lack of interest
Unfortunately, in many communes the same thing was said – the Solecki Fund had been separated, but there was no interest from inhabitants and heads of villages, therefore, it has not been realized. If applications had been delivered to the local government (sometimes not many), they would not always have been implemented – the head of villages thought that communes would do everything, inhabitants did not want to be involved in activities. At the same time for the question whether  any informational action concerning the Solecki Fund had been performed n commune, whether it had been promoted, the authorities of communes answered that the information about the Solecki Fund had been delivered to the heads of villages. It seems that the lack of interests could have been in such cases caused by the lack of information and involvement from the local authorities. In communes, which give up the Solecki Fund in the following years, there had been earlier the funds given in another form and after one try, it has been decided to return to the old system – it seemed to be less complicated and it is destined for a given purpose (for example culture).

Too tight budget
Some communes were explaining themselves, saying that after they Solecki Fund had been separated, during  financial year it appeared that there was not enough money in the budget for most important investments. Because of that funds were transferred from the Solecki Fund to other expenses, which were priorities and amount of which exceed the expectations. Authorities of communes have given a tight budget and financial problems as reasons why they could not destined the funds for “other” objectives. The majority of these communes after one try with the Solecki Fund have decided to give it up, assuming that the situation in the following years may repeat, as their budgets are usually very tight. At the same time, in some communes statements have been made that maybe after few years when the financial situation improves, they would come back to the Solecki Fund.

Solecki fund in towns
There are some urban communes, that consist of auxiliary units of village character (solectwo), which are usually an archaic form. They are separate case which importance is worth to mention. In such situations even if the Solecki Fund had been separated it usually has not been realized. Maybe it shows that villages in towns do not function very well and their status should be change for osiedle. In towns in which the Solecki Fund was separated there are usually funds destined for supportive entities which include auxiliary units.

The Solecki Fund perspectives

How does the Solecki Fund work and what percentage of the funds is actually spent on planned objectives we will see in the following years, when the practice of separation and implementation the Solecki Fund will be hardened. It can be stated, that the first year the Solecki Fund was the time of  learning and specifying. Communes have a practical experience so they probably will manage the disbursement of the funds better. Moreover, communes which will decide to work with the Solecki Fund in following years will be able to draw on earlier experience of other communes, which will be very helpful. There must be also  an equal system of collecting and analyzing the data concerning the realization of the Solecki Fund which is not available yet. Only in this way we will be able to rationally assess an effectiveness of the Solecki Fund and  the current Act.

It is worth to mention that the way communes approach to the subject of the Solecki Fund is often different from the idea why the Solecki Fund Act was passed, that is the idea of participation. The Solecki Fund is supposed to be a supportive tool for inhabitants’ decisiveness of the smallest auxiliary units of self-government – villages. It was the matter of the fact that inhabitants of villages would make decisions by themselves and they would take responsibility for it. However, they need to know that they have such a possibility (information about the Solecki Fund) and  then they need time (few years even) in order to see how does the Solecki Fund work, what is it worth to be spend on, what is for them (inhabitants) most profitable. The fund is often spend for investments, contribution to roads’ repair, pavements, canalization building. Those are of course very important expenses which influence the standard of living. However, the fund objective was slightly different – inhabitants’ activeness and meeting stimulation, facilitation of inhabitants’ identification with place of residence.

We hope that communes authorities will understand that the Solecki Fund is not only the way to  distribute the funds from the budget but first of all it is the tool of village community development.

It largely depends on how will the work on an amendment of The Solecki Fund Act go, which entries will it contain and when will it come into force.

The detailed data concerning the amount of refunds for individual voyevodships can be found here.

Autor/ka: The Association of Leaders of Local Civic Groups

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