Donors make a black list of municipalities mismanaging the projects
- Dissatisfied with the outcome of funds invested in the country through different projects, the donors send their last warning
- The donors ended some of the infrastructural projects, claiming they were never put in use
- Warning to Kriva Palanka municipality over the water supply project in bordering villages of Uzem and Zidilovo, in which over 100,000 EUR has been invested
The foreign donors in the country are preparing a black list of municipalities that have failed to complete and manage the projects. The intensive consultations in the past two months are mainly focused on who to be placed on the list. Dissatisfied with the outcome of the funds invested in the country through different projects (some estimate these funds are over dozen million euro), the donors send their last warning. The municipalities, for which it will be established that they have not realized the projects as it was expected, will forever lose the chance for receiving foreign assistance.
In the past decade over billion of euro has been invested as foreign donations, but no one has exact record on how the money was spent. With the exception of the donors, no state institution keeps detailed records of the successfulness of projects in the past year. This information is only available to the both sides involved in the donation – the donors and those who received the donation. Few years ago, the government’s Sector on Euro-Integration became involved in the process, but it also does not have complete information about the projects. The Government points out the years of 2001 and 2002 as dim period for project management, because they have no documents on the most of the assistance that entered the country back then.
As we found out, some municipalities received written warnings from the donors on cancellation of the projects. Others are scared by the oral threats made by the foreigners during their field visits aimed at overseeing the project implementation. However, the municipalities also complain on the cooperation with the donors. They object the withdrawal of invested money, as most of the funds end in the hands of foreign experts. Another problem is the maintenance of facilities because of the low economic power of the municipalities.
The donors are appalled by the feeling that the money has gone with the wind. The donations are used for construction of water supply systems and treatment of wastewater, which unfortunately are not in use as municipalities are not interested in managing them, the donors claim. Therefore, some of them have ended the projects implemented in the country. They say the projects will be resumed as soon as they define the black list in order to know who to involve in the next stages. Even the non-governmental organizations, through which the foreign donations come, decided to give up the infrastructural project, saying there was no point in accumulating funds when the municipalities were not willing to improve the living conditions.
One of the municipalities that received oral warning from the donors is Kriva Palanka for the water supply project in bordering villages of Uzem and Zidilovo, in which 100,000 euro has been invested through the SIP program and non-governmental Macedonian Centre for International Cooperation. However, the project was never fully realized because the residents did not want to connect to the water supply network providing clean drinking water.
Unfortunately, this case is not unique. The list of failed project is long, although million euros have been invested. The donors are disappointed by a series of other projects on water supply and wastewater systems, labeled by them as “monuments”. Off the record, the donors point out the examples of the water supply and wastewater systems in Probistip, Kuklis, Makedonski brod and Zletovo, where for years the citizens refuse to connect to the systems, complaining on the lack of resources, but some also say for political reasons.
The municipalities have their own side of the story. They say it is not easy to maintain facilities built with foreign donations. One of the examples is the treatment plant in Makedonski brod and it is only a matter of time before it stops functioning. It is one of the most contemporary treatment plants in the region, but the competent officials say that from time to time it is not working because of the flaws in the maintenance. The treatment plant in Makedonski brod was constructed with money from an Austrian donation and in 2003 was handed over to the public utility company. Unfortunately, the company has problem to collect the fees from the citizens and have no resources to maintain it. “We make an appeal to the Government and the Ministry of Environment and Physical Planning to undertake certain measures such as financial support or to take control over the plant,” says Filip Stojkoski, director of public company “Vodovod i kanalizacija”. He complains that the annual maintenance expenditures amount to 1,7 million denar or around 28,000 euro, which is around 30 percent of the company’s revenues. “The station is a great burden for us, disrupting the normal work,” Stojkoski added.
The foreign donors avoid to press charges and ask for compensation for the unrealized donation or to withdraw the money as they do not want to lose their reputation in the country. They simply cancel the cooperation with the organization to which the money is donated. This is the case with the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation which terminated the cooperation with the Movement of Ecologists of Macedonia after they did not receive invoices for some of the money earmarked for the project. Agency’s director, Roman Darbelej, did not emphasize the amount of money, but said they have not initiated court procedure because the lawyer’s fees were higher than the value of the project. However, he went on, in future they would be careful to whom they would give the money.
“The number of cases in which the donor required assistance from us in resolving these problems is higher for projects which have not passed through the National system in comparison with the projects which have went through all internal mechanisms of checking and approval,” says Jovan Despotovski of the Sector for Euro-Integration. According to him, the risk of fraud with donated money is higher when the National System for Foreign Assistance Coordination is sidelined.
The Association of Local Self-Governments confirms that sometimes there are problems with project management, but they try to resolve this issue. They are not informed that some municipalities face problems. For additional information, we were referred to their web site, where they have published a list of cancelled infrastructure project, but some of the information is outdated.