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05.12.2017Science and Education for Smart Growth OP: What measures are being taken to take into account the recommendations of the European Commission

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.

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