What is the state of the Science and Education for Smart Growth OP, what measures are being taken to take into account the recommendations of the European Commission, what operations to be announced in 2018 were among the main topics discussed at the seventh meeting of the Monitoring Committee of OP. It was held on November 24 under the chairmanship of Mr. Kiril Geratliev, Executive Director of EA "Science and Education for Smart Growth Operational Program" and Head of the Managing Authority The forum was attended by the Deputy Minister of Education and Science Prof. Ivan Dimov, and representatives of the European Commission. The organizations working for the integration of Roma, minority groups and marginalized communities were represented by Deyan Kolev of Amalipe Center.
Over 63% of the total budget of the OP has been planned, ie. the operations approved by the Monitoring Committee are coveriing the amount of BGN 868 321 872. Approximately 92% of them, or BGN 805 080 206, have started the respective procedures. Only BGN 291 625 397.26 have been contracted and the funds actually paid are even lower - BGN 120 341 678.31. Thus, the funds paid so far are slightly above 8.77% of the program resource, which is BGN 1 371 383 547.82. The verified costs are BGN 72 483 804.51.
This unsatisfied situation leaving the OPSESG at the bottom of the operational programs was presented along with a report on the number of experts and staff turnover in the Managing Authority. 81 out of 96 experts left or have been replaced for the past 2.5 years, and this turnover definitely affected the program's management.
A special presentation was made about the state of the two major procedures for the development of Bulgarian science, the delay of which threatens to lose funds under the N + 3 rule "Construction and development of centers of excellence" for 200 million BGN and "Construction and development of competence centers "for BGN 150 mln. The evaluation of the submitted proposals was ready on October 30, but on November 17 was returned for the elimination of weaknesses and the date of its announcement is yet not clear.
The measures taken by the Managing Authority in the framework of an Action Plan on the Preliminary Audit Report of the European Commission's audit mission no. REGC214BG0033 of October 2016, which led to the freezing of payments from Brussels to the Ministry of Education and Science led to a discussion. In addition to turning the Managing Authority into an Executive Agency, the Plan also includes a change in the procedures for selecting assessors and others. It is envisaged to minimize the practice of MES being a concrete Beneficiary, ie. to receive the main share of the funds: at present, the Ministry of Education and Science is a beneficiary of 10 of the total 16 announced operations.
Adjustments to the budgets of the already started procedures are also planned. Regarding the procedures in which the MES is a specific beneficiary, the reduction in the budget of "Your Lesson is the biggest - about BGN 35 mln. They will not be at the expense of the activities in the schools, but of the accompanying ones - for advertising and others, which may have been superfluous. BGN 3,144 million were reduced by the school student practices and by 1,179 million BGN - university student practices. The MA's assurance is that there have been reduced concomitant activities that will not affect real school and unoversity student practices. On the other hand, the operation "Introduction of credits in the vocational training and education system" was completely canceled, which saved BGN 2 million. The "Career guidance system in school education" operation was reduced by BGN 2,271 million.
The plans of the MA for introducing a "flat financial correction" of already approved projects under the "Support for the development of post-graduate students and young scientists - Phase 1", "Support for pre-school education and preparation of disadvantaged children"," Educational Integration of Students from Ethnic Minorities and / or Searching for or Receiving International Protection "(1 and 2 term) were not clarified. Based on a reassessment of the four largest projects on these operations, the MA proposes a 25% "flat financial correction" of all contracts, was said in the presentation.
Deyan Kolev argued that it is unacceptable to reduce the funds of municipalities, schools, NGOs and universities because of assessment mistakes by the Managing Authority. In reply Kiril Geratliev assured that the beneficiaries' contracts will not be adjusted, and that the flat financial correction will be 10%. How it would be done was not clarified.
At its meeting on 24 November, the Monitoring Committee of the Operational Program "Science and Education for Smart Growth" adopted the Indicative Annual Work Program (IAWP) for 2018. The total value of the grant procedures included in the IAWP is BGN 180, 5 million. They will be allocated through 4 competitive selection procedures and 5 direct grant procedures.
Under the Priority Axis 1 "Research and Technological Development", two selection procedures for project proposals will be launched:
- "Construction of regional research centers": totaling BGN 100 mln. Research organizations, BAS, Agricultural Academy, NGOs, local authorities will be eligible to apply for projects between BGN 1 mln and 7 mln. It is expected that the competition will be open in May to run until August 2018.
- "Unique Scientific Infrastructures": totaling BGN 100 million. Projects, universities, BAS, Agricultural Academies will be eligible to apply for projects. It is expected that the competition will be open in August until December 2018.
Under Priority Axis 2 "Education and Lifelong Learning", five procedures will be opened for the direct award of grants to a specific MES beneficiary: "Working in Bulgaria", "Adaptation of secondary vocational and higher education systems to market requirements of Labor in Bulgaria "," Quality Assurance System in Vocational Education and Training "," Introduction of a Dual Training System "and" Improvement of National Validation System ".
Two procedures for the selection of project proposals will be launched under the Priority Axis "Educational Environment for Active Social Inclusion":
- "Support for vulnerable groups for access to higher education": this operation will apply - for the first time - so-called "simplified costs." The operation aims to increase the number and percentage of young people from vulnerable groups: young people with disabilities, representatives of ethnic minorities and other unrepresented or under-represented groups.
The operation will be implemented as a competitive selection procedure in two components. Component 1 will support minor repairs to make the environment accessible to students with disabilities, with universities applying. Component 2 will support the enrollment and training of students from ethnic minorities and other vulnerable groups in secondary and tertiary schools. This is intended to be done through information and motivation campaigns, courses, application fees and semester fees, parental engagement and negative stereotyping, volunteer activities in vulnerable groups through which the supported youth will retain their relationship with the communities they originate from. Schools and NGOs will be eligible for projects. Approved projects will be two-year. Component 2 projects will cost between BGN 50,000 and BGN 100,000. This will support 1,000 students with disabilities and 1,200 students and ethnic minority students.
The updated IAWP provides for the call for proposals under the operation to be announced in February 2018 and the application to be made by May;
- "Increasing capacity of pedagogical specialists to work in a multicultural environment": the operation will support the practical training of 2000 pedagogical specialists for work in a multicultural environment. Unlike the other qualification operation(Qualification and re-qualification of pedagogical specialists) this will be implemented as a competitive selection procedure for projects that will be open to schools, universities and NGOs registered under Article 222 of the School Education Act.
The updated IAWP provides for the call for projects to be launched in February 2018, and the submitting of projects to be made by May.
The Indicative Work Program is a document that sets out intentions but does not guarantee their implementation, especially within the deadlines set. E.g. Axis 3 operations were set in three previous IWAPlans