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 Bitola”.
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 main characteristic of the general assessment of performance of Bitola Municipality’s capacities to use and programme IPA funds to serve local development priorities is the low level of utilisation of available funds.That is due to the passive and strategically unfocused approach.
Although the strategic framework of Bitola Municipality fully corresponds to the programming priorities of IPA programmes, it is the absence of political will of the municipal administration to take direct participation in IPA project that is noted as the key factor for the past limited participation.
Also, the lack of continuity of the strategic direction to build the necessary capacities makes the unfavourable position in terms of utilisation of the limited human resources and experience, which have serious effect on the absorption of EU funds, much harder.
Existing models of cooperation with the local stakeholders have not yielded any significant results.The promotion of benefits from Bitola’s participation in EU’s IPA programmes through which a series of strategic development initiatives could be implemented together with public enterprises, CSOs and the business sector, has been stagnating.
We should note the fact that, at this time, there is political will in the municipal administration to improve the situation.One advantage is that, in spite of limited staff, the expertise and experience that need to be put in service of effective and efficient local economic development are indisputably there.
The Municipality notes that CSOs may prove to be the most useful partners in the preparation and implementation of projects under EU’s programmes.At the moment, there is no systemic approach and cooperation between the local administration and the CSOs, and no person for communication with civic activists has been appointed.The cooperation has been reduced to ad hoc activities and an annual programme for financing of local CSOs with a total budget of just MKD 2 million.
Activists unanimously agree that partnership is necessary and should be constantly built and upgraded.There is the prevailing opinion among them that, for the time being, the Municipality lacks the will to cooperate with the civil sector, therefore, they advocate the preparation of a new Strategy to prescribe measures and activities to improve the cooperation.
The activists believe that the Municipality and the CSOs need to work together in preparation and application of projects for IPA funding.That partnership would be mutually beneficial.For the CSOs, it would mean, among other things, that the Municipality would secure the necessary co-financing.
The key challenges faced by the civil society organisations in Bitola are related to the limited financial sustainability opportunities and the lack of human resources for their further development.
The existing political will in the local administration in Bitola needs to be transformed into concrete measures and activities that would lead to increased utilisation of funds offered by the European Union.
The Municipality needs to create and implement continuous and 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 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. For that purpose, the Municipality of Bitola needs to work continuously to build and upgrade the capacities of the municipal administration.At this time, the priority areas for upgrading are:Informing the municipal administration with the details of EU’s programmes and funds; project management and implementation of IPA project; introduction to and application of PRAG procurement procedures; financial management; communication and promotion of project results; public advocacy and creation of evidence-based policies; etc.
Capacities for utilisation and programing of IPA funds on local level need to be properly systemized in service of 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 Bitola needs to establish a sustainable development system, with a project department that would map the local priorities and adequate preparation and implementation of projects.
In order to be able to improve the cooperation with the CSOs, the Municipality needs to establish a two-way dialogue with the civil sector and appoint a person for communication with civic activists.It also needs to prepare a strategy for cooperation and support for CSOs.The preparation and the implementation of the strategy need to be inclusive with direct and continuous participation of civil society organisations.
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 develop models for involvement of CSOs in the implementation of local development measures.
The existing Programme for support for CSOs needs to incorporate a clearly defined system for selection, monitoring and evaluation and supported projects need to correspond to the strategic priorities of the Municipality.
Full text of the analysis: Local level capacities to absorb and programme IPA Funds – Case Study: Municipality of Bitola
This study was prepared within the project “Local Consultative Mechanism for IPA2″ funded by the European Union.