The NGO Info-centre, in cooperation with the Women’s Organization from Strumica, prepared the study: “Local level capacities to absorb and programme IPA Funds - Case Study: Municipality of Strumica”.
This analytical report is a part of a series of case-studies that aim to map the existing capacities to use and programme IPA funds at the local level, in the municipalities of Bitola, Tetovo, Strumica and the City of Skopje. In order to facilitate increased involvement of local actors in decision-making mechanisms related to the EU accession process, we assess and offer recommendations for increased involvement of municipalities and local civil society organisations from Skopje, Polog, Pelagonija and Southeast Planning Region in programming, monitoring and implementation of IPA2 funds.
The general assessment of the performance of Strumica Municipality regarding its capacities to use and programme IPA funds to serve local development priorities is the characterized by the limited percentage of utilisation and absorption of available funds.
While the strategic framework of Strumica Municipality is in line with programming priorities of IPA, the past limited participation was due mainly to the obstruction efforts of the former national Government.
The absence of continuity of training and specialization of human resources of the municipal administration further aggravates the situation with use and absorption of EU funds.
The Municipality of Strumica occasionally applies the practice of ad hoc decisions in determining the priority of certain project proposals, without paying attention is they are in line (or not) with the local strategic goals and existing development framework. In addition, the findings indicate certain shortcomings of internal procedures for preparation monitoring and record-keeping of submitted project-proposals.
We should note the Municipality of Strumica’s practice to promote the importance and use of direct involvement of public enterprises and other local actors in the absorption of EU funds as a start of a successful model of cooperation.
The cooperation of the Municipality with CSOs is quite solid, but creation of clear procedures for cooperation and inclusion of CSOs in processes of creation of local policies is needed. In terms of existing systemisation of jobs and positions and organisational structure, the Municipality doesn’t have a special department or office for cooperation with CSOs. The cooperation is conducted through the departments of citizen services and local economic development.An opinion prevails among CSOs that the communication with the Municipality of Strumica needs to be improved, having in mind that they also share the opinion that the municipal administration, for the time being, lacks the will to engage in active cooperation with the civil sector.
The Municipality of Strumica is a fine example of sectoral programming of funds to support CSOs. The annual support programmes are focused on the local economic development and social welfare. The Municipality secures more than 3 mn MKD per year, one of the largest amounts dedicated to support for CSOs on local level in the country. Civil society organisations believe that the process of selection and allocation of financial support needs to be more transparent.
The Municipality believes that CSOs and other stakeholders may be useful partners in preparation and implementation of projects in the framework of EU programmes. The CSOs also view the Municipality as a desired partner. For the civil society organisations it would mean, among other things, greater ease in securing the necessary co-financing for the projects.
The key challenges faced by the civil society organisations in Strumica are related to the limited financial sustainability opportunities and the lack of adequate human resources for their further development.
The existing political will in the Municipality of Strumica and the absence of political bareers nned to be transformed into concrete measures and activities that would lead to increased utilisation of funds made available by the European Union, in line with the municipal strategic development framework.
The municipal administration needs to continue its practice of systemic promotion of benefits from participation in EU’s IPA programmes, both for the Municipality and for the public enterprises, CSOs, the business sector and the citizens in general. The model of successful cooperation at the local level could be promoted also as good practice that other regions and municipalities in the country could emulate.
The access to IPA funds implies undertaking of a series of preparatory steps, integrated into coherent development frameworks that will precisely identify the needs for upgrading of existing capacities. With that goal in mind, the Municipality of Strumica needs to constantly upgrade the capacities of the municipal administration. At the moment, priority areas for upgrading are: Informing the municipal administration with the details of EU’s programmes and funds; project management and implementation of IPA projects (at basic and advanced levels); introduction to and application of PRAG procurement procedures; financial management; communication and promotion of project results; public advocacy and creation of evidence-based policies.
The capacities for utilisation and programming of IPA funds on local level need to be adequately systemized and in service of the strategic development priorities of the Municipality. Therefore, an efficient internal system needs to be put in place, together with proper organisational set-up, adequate human resources and mandate to follow, monitor and upgrade that system. In fact, the Municipality of Strumica needs to establish a system for sustainable development, with additional support to the DICEF which is charged with the mapping of local priorities and with preparation and implementation of development projects.
To improve the cooperation with the CSOs, the Municipality needs to establish a two-way dialogue with the civil sector, and also to create a department of cooperation with the CSOs. It needs to review the instruments for selection and monitoring of programmes for support to CSOs, with the aim to ensure greater transparency and accountability.
The Municipality needs to stimulate partnerships with CSOs under the auspices of the IPA programmes and to support the sustainability of the civil sector. The Municipality needs to restore its good practices of active inclusion of CSOs in the design and implementation of local development measures.
Full text of the analysis: Local level capacities to absorb and programme IPA Funds – Case Study: Municipality of Strumica
This study was prepared within the project “Local Consultative Mechanism for IPA2″ funded by the European Union.