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: City of Skopje”.
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 the City of Skopje and its capacities to use and programme EU funds notes that it was the most effective nationally, but is far from sufficient.Having in mind the size of the City, its Budget and opportunities for absorption of additional funds for development interventions, there is ample room for progress and increased percentage of utilisation of available funds.
The analysis shows that the City of Skopje has adopted somewhat passive and strategically unfocused approach to the issue of securing of donor funds.Levels of self-initiative is low, unlike the inertia to join partnerships that are upgraded with continuous projects or joining projects that result from already established partnerships and networks.
Although the strategic framework of the City of Skopje fully corresponds to the programming priorities of the EU programmes, the past limited participation in IPA programmes results from the limitations regarding the available human resources and experience that would contribute to increased absorption of funds from EU projects, as well as the absence of continuity of capacity building activities.
The existing models of cooperation with the stakeholders on local and national level haven’t yielded any significant results.The promotion of benefits from the participation of the City of Skopje in EU programmes that can be implemented in cooperation with the municipalities that are part of the City, the public enterprises, CSOs, the academic community and the business sector, and which could contribute to realisation of a series of strategic development initiatives has been stagnating.
At the moment, there is political will in the City Administration to improve the situation.One advantage is that, in spite of its limited staff, the Administration undoubtedly has the expertise and experience that need to be put in service of effective and efficient local economic development, which need to be reflected in the new strategic framework that is currently in the process of drafting.
The City of Skopje believes that CSOs and other stakeholders may be useful partners in preparation and implementation of projects in the framework of EU programmes.At this time, the only systemic model of cooperation with civil society organisations is the annual programme for financing of local CSOs, with a total budget of just 2 million MKD.
CSOs, on the other hand, note that, at this time, the City doesn’t exhibit much will or pro-active approach to cooperation and suggest a joint and inclusive effort in the preparation of a new strategy that will include concrete models, measures and activities for improvement of mutual cooperation.The activists also believe that, in the future, the City Administration and the CSOs should join forces to cooperate in preparation of project proposals that would apply for EU funding.Such a partnership would be beneficial for both sides.For the civil society organisations, among other things, it will mean greater ease in securing the necessary co-financing for the projects.
The existing political will in the City of Skopje administration needs to be transformed into concrete measures and activities that would lead to increased utilisation of funds made available by the European Union.
The City Administration needs to create and implement continuous and systemic promotion of benefits from participation in EU programmes, both for the City of Skopje and for the public enterprises, CSOs, the business sector and the citizens in general.
The access to EU 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 City of Skopje needs to work to continuously build and upgrade the capacities of the city administration, that is, the project teams and the staff of SIC and SLED.
At the moment, priority areas for upgrading are:Informing the municipal administration with the details of EU’s programmes and funds; preparation of projects; project management and implementation of IPA projects; 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 EU funds need to be adequately systemized and in service of City of Skopje’s strategic development priorities.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.A continuous promotion of principle of partnership in implementation of projects and definition of strategic partners for application and implementation of international projects, in service of local development needs, is also necessary.
To improve the cooperation with CSOs, a new strategy for cooperation with and support for CSOs needs to be prepared.The preparation and the implementation of the strategy need to be inclusive with direct and continuous participation of civil society organisations.The process of improvement of the situation requires regular access to information about all programmes funded by EU and other international institutions, public calls and tenders, and securing more funds from the City Budget to support the process of preparation of project documentation and successful application to open calls, and simultaneous securing of co-financing facilities for part of approved projects.
Full text of the analysis: Local level capacities to absorb and programme IPA Funds – Case Study: City of Skopje
This study was prepared within the project “Local Consultative Mechanism for IPA2″ funded by the European Union.