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1 Final report summary The evaluation research on the status of preparation of local government units to apply for funding from the Regional Operational Program (ROP) for Lower Silesia Voivodship Consortium: The study is co-financed from European Regional Development Fund and from Lower Silesia Voivodeship selfgovernment s funds within Technical Assistance Operational Programme for Lower Silesia Voivodeship in

2 1. SUMMARY The evaluation research on the status of preparation of local government units to apply for funding from the Regional Operational Program (ROP) for Lower Silesia Voivodship , commissioned by the Office of the Marshal of Lower Silesia Voivodship, was performed in the period from June to October The research work was directed towards the following aspects: Factors motivating local government units to apply for funding under Integrated Regional Operational Programme (IROP) Priorities I and III (except Operation 1.6 and 3.4); Problems and barriers influencing the efficiency of units in acquiring European funds in the period from 2004 to 2006, with special focus on organisation, finances, communication and information exchange, and professional staff; Local government units ways and methods of preparation to applying for funding from ROP for Lower Silesia Voivodship; Planned undertakings and the level of awareness of own needs among local government units and their priorities; Congruence of local government units strategic documents with the areas of support from ROP for Lower Silesia Voivodship; Strategy of local government units actions undertaken to acquire funding in the period from 2007 to 2013 and knowledge about external sources of support for their planned investments other than ROP for Lower Silesia Voivodship; Question of considering past experiences of local government units from the programming period in their preparations to ROP for Lower Silesia Voivodship. The sum total of IROP funds for operations designed for local government units amounted to PLN. In the period of the analysis local government units submitted 605 proposals, applying for the sum total of PLN, which exceeded the accessible sum by 2.5 times. Local government units signed - in the period concerned agreements worth PLN in total. Thus, 39% projects for which proposals had been submitted were funded. The results of the evaluation research provide an interesting and wide picture of conditions of applying for funding from the IROP and preparing for the implementation of ROP for Lower Silesia Voivodship. Considered in the analysis were problems and barriers encountered while applying for funding, as well as examples of good practices, which supported efficient accomplishment of projects. 1. Factors motivating local government units to apply for funding under Integrated Regional Operational Programme (IROP) Priorities I and III Interviews with representatives of local government units show that the key factor motivating to apply for funding was the intention to improve the citizens conditions of life and to fulfil their immediate expectations. Less often the main motivational factors were higher level developmental needs of a unit, such as the need to improve the environmental condition, to develop transport infrastructure or to increase tourism attractiveness.

3 The majority of the respondents claimed that the informative and promotional actions performed by institutions implementing IROP turned up to be useful and provided an important source of information. They emphasized, however, that drawing on the informative and promotional actions alone was not sufficient to be successful in applying for funding. Past experiences with pre-access funds for the most part stimulated to further endeavours to gain European support in the period. They resulted in a rise in qualifications among members of office personnel in the field of preparation, implementation, and managing projects financed from European resources. 2. Problems and barriers influencing the efficiency of units in acquiring European funds in the period from 2004 to 2006, with special focus on organisation, finances, communication and information exchange, and professional staff. An important problem was the lack of competent employees who would be able to prepare proposals and realize projects. Sometimes it related not so much to the number of employees, as to their competence. They were not or didn t feel competent enough to manage the tasks entrusted to them. In the case of the majority of local government units the perspective of gaining support from structural funds encouraged the offices to tackle the personnel issue to increase employment in sectors responsible for European funds. Local government units came across two significant problems deficiency of specialists in the job market and high costs of employing such specialists. A number of local government units managed settle this problem by introducing alternative solutions, which helped reinforce their personnel. An important problem for more than half of the examined local government units was a shortage of own financial resources (own contribution). The majority of local governments were forced to seriously limit their appetite for European resources. Representatives of some of the units also pointed to difficult cooperation with the public, which didn t understand the procedures of applying for European resources, as well as to the inner conflicts between the government and representatives of the public. Lack of cooperation and mutual understanding in a few cases led to missing a chance to realise important investments for a region. An important hindrance for local government units was also the instability of the building services market. Although in the beginning stage of the realisation of the program there were incidents where the tasks were realised under planned costs, the final phase revealed that the investors cost estimates made at the stage of the projects preparation differed from the prices proposed by the contractors. A vital problem in such situations was also the lack of planned resources for additional expenses. Some of the respondents implementing IROP projects pointed to difficulties with finding contractors. Serious difficulties were also caused by delays in the realisation of the projects. At the stage of the projects realisation an important factor was the care with which works were carried out. It was not always sufficient, especially when investments were realised in a relatively short period. Unreliable contractors are partly to blame, but the competence and responsibility of the beneficiary s employees had nonetheless a major influence on the outcome of the projects. Part of the respondents claimed that the key factor that affected the efficiency of local government units was the time they started to prepare for the projects. If the moment was too

4 late, the units came up with incomplete documentation or low quality application documents, prepared in too much of a hurry. Many problems encountered at the stage of realising the projects or after their closure resulted from mistakes made at the stage of applying for funding. Most frequently the problems resulted from underestimated or overestimated costs or incorrect defining of indicators. Such situations often appeared as a result of commissioning the preparation of proposals to an external company that didn t understand local conditioning or the details of the project. Difficulties in settling accounts also resulted from mistakes in documents confirming the units accomplishments. In some cases the source of problems was the choice of the project itself. There were some misguided choices not thought about, detached from real needs or from a wider geographical or social context. There were also some ineffective solutions, sometimes even generating additional costs and problems. 3. Local government units ways and methods of preparation to applying for funding from ROP for Lower Silesia Voivodship; Some of the examined local government units introduced changes in their organisational structure by creating an separate organisational sector responsible for acquiring European resources. When asked about the main reasons why they introduced the structural changes, representatives of units that applied actively for IROP resources commonly pointed to economic motives, the sectors responsible for acquiring funding being self-financing. However, the creation of a separate unit is not by itself a universal remedy against failures at acquiring European support. There were units in the researched group that created sectors responsible for handling European funding issues comparatively early, but still didn t succeed in gaining support. On the other hand, there were units which, in spite of a lack of any separate body, coped with gaining support relatively well. In the period only a few units created formal internal procedures, instructions or manuals on the subject of European funding. Also the awareness of the function which the resources could fulfil is relatively low. Many units called the additional procedures unnecessary extra bureaucracy. Yet, formal procedures have recently gained an increasing number of supporters. More and more units develop them basing on past negative experiences and following the examples of other units. Units appreciated such solutions for efficient applying for financial support, in spite of initial difficulties with putting them into operation. Unlike what is commonly believed, they are not usually vast treatises. Some of the units come up with simplified action schemes for projects or chosen types of operations. The respondents emphasised that they were particularly useful in case of repetitive procedures, such as preparing payment claims, where mistakes led to unpleasant consequences deferred payment of resources. In order to avoid organisational effort, necessary to prepare a vast and complicated proposal documentation, local government units decided to commission the job to a external service providers. Such practices, however, generated additional costs and did not always guarantee a success many of the proposals prepared by advisory companies were turned down at the formal appraisal stage. Such situation occurred frequently in inexperienced units, the employees of which didn t know how to assess the quality of prepared documents. Respondents from units which didn t apply for funding, as well as these, whose units were highly effective in the field, declared to have taken part in numerous training seminars. The

5 latter emphasised that taking part in seminars organised by the Office of the Marshal of Lower Silesia Voivodship did not guarantee success in applying for support. This is why it is important to properly organise the process of acquiring, gathering, and updating information about European funds. Having a sufficient amount of up-to-date information greatly influences the efficiency of applying for funding. 4. Planned projects and the level of awareness of own needs among local government units and their priorities; Representatives of local government units had no problem pointing to these investments which were crucial for the development of their units. The representatives of units which actively applied for resources, however, appeared to be more skilled at handling the question. The majority of local government units have precise plans regarding the way they want to finance their investments. The funding source which was mentioned most frequently was ROP for Lower Silesia Voivodship. In case of almost two third (63%) of investments described as crucial from the point of view of the units development feasibility studies were prepared. In all the cases the studies proved the projects viability. For more than a third of projects there was a complete set of documents needed for embarking on the project, including permissions and administrative decisions required when undertaking project actions. Most of the respondents answered positively to the question if there was an agreement between their planned investments and goals set in strategic documents. However, inferring on this basis that the planned investments constituted a part of a wider concept of local development would be at least risky. In order to verify this statement the strategic documents were checked for their quality and timeliness. All the researched boroughs prepared strategic documents designed to mark out long distance goals and directions of development. Some of the documents were generated as a result of requirements set by IROP and other European programs. A major part of them, however, missed basic elements needed for a complete analysis and proper identification of goals and priority tasks from the point of view of the units development. Likewise, only a few of the units came up with a hierarchy of goals and tasks. The strategic documents usually consisted of long lists of tasks, of which a large part was impossible to be realised because of the units organisational and financial limitations. 5. Congruence of local government units strategic documents with the areas of support from ROP for Lower Silesia Voivodship; The interviews demonstrate that in two third of the local government units strategic documents were changed because of plans to apply to ROP for Lower Silesia Voivodship. The actions taken varied new strategic documents were created and adapted to ROP for Lower Silesia Voivodship requirements, expected sums were updated, and records were made about investments that a unit wanted to fund from ROP for Lower Silesia Voivodship. There were cases where the perspective of gaining support from ROP for Lower Silesia Voivodship influenced the choice of investments recorded in strategic documents. Respondents asked about congruence of records in strategic documents with ROP for Lower Silesia Voivodship typically pointed to long-term investment plans. Yet, a detailed analysis of actions listed in the long-term investment plans made accessible to the researchers showed that only half of the units had records about investments planned for the period

6 with the support of EU resources. Moreover, only in the case of half of the units long-term investment plans took into consideration the whole perspective of the period. 6. Strategy of local government units actions undertaken to acquire funding in the period from 2007 to 2013 and knowledge about external sources of support for their planned investments other than ROP for Lower Silesia Voivodship; When asked about alternative sources of funding to ROP for Lower Silesia Voivodship, office workers pointed to own resources of local government units and various proper funds. Some of the respondents mentioned also Rural Development Program, bank credits and international and interregional cooperation programs. Only in a few isolated cases respondents mentioned operational programs: Operational Programme Infrastructure and Environment, Operational Programme Innovative Economy, Operational Programme Human Capital. Respondents also referred to projects which they planned to submit solely to programs different from ROP for Lower Silesia Voivodship. Units plan to submit nearly half of the projects from this group to the Rural Development Program. 7. Question of considering past experiences of local government units from the programming period in their preparations to ROP for Lower Silesia Voivodship. One third of respondents declared that a factual analysis of failures from the period had been done in their units an analysis focused on the main barriers and hindrances, which was later used to try to introduce necessary changes. Some of the units were inspired to introduce changes by experiences and solutions of other units especially those which were effective in acquiring support. Two third of the units didn t conduct a systematic analysis of failures. Respondents from the majority of units which had applied for resources stated that experiences from the programming period were used in their offices. They claimed that the experiences gave them better understanding of procedures and a chance to learn from mistakes. Among the changes reportedly introduced on the basis of the former programming period were: resigning from actions which hadn t brought expected effects, earlier preparation of the required documentation, employing a new worker, creating a new post for the acquisition of European funds, resigning from cooperation with external companies in preparing proposals, implementing a plan of personnel training, intensifying cooperation with NGOs.

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