21.05.2018OPSESG was "unblocked"; The Monitoring Committee directed BGN 82.5 million to the kindergartens

The Ministry of Education and Science will allocate BGN 82.5 million between kindergartens to support the early inclusion and educational inclusion of children from vulnerable groups in pre-school education. The funds will be used for additional Bulgarian language training; pedagogical, psychological and social support of children from vulnerable groups (including provision of funds for kindergarten fees); training of pedagogical and non-pedagogical specialists; working with parents of children from vulnerable groups; activities to build positive public attitudes to pre-school education and non-discrimination.

This became clear after the Monitoring Committee of the Science and Education for Smart Growth OP approved the Criteria for the selection of the "Active inclusion in the field of inclusive education" operation at its meeting on 18 May. The meeting was led by Kiril Geratliev, Executive Director of OPSESG Agency. Representatives of DG Employment and DG Regional Development of the European Commission, Ministry of Education, other national institutions, social partners and NGOs took part in it. The group of organizations working for the integration of vulnerable groups was represented by Deyan Kolev of Amalipe Center for Interethnic Dialogue and Tolerance.

The European Commission defrosted the payments under OPSESG! This was the main news, reaffirmed at the meeting, after the Commission has sent the long-awaited letter four days earlier. The program money was blocked in February 2017 after an EC commission audit mission in October 2016 found serious violations in the implementation of 8 operations for BGN 180 million as well as an inadmissible merger of the MES as the Managing Authority and the main beneficiary of the program (in 2016 the Minister of Education M. Kuneva even took the program "manuallyt"). Measures have been identified to overcome the problems, including the removal of the Managing Authority of the program outside the Ministry of Education (the so-called "SESG Executive Agency"). Its director, Kiril Geratliev, explained that the blocking of the money did not affect the projects - they were implemented with funds from the state. So far, they have paid 170 million leva, which we can already begin to certify and request their recovery from the EC. Of course, "defrosting" goes with certain damages. The Ministry of Education and Science has already cut 20% of the funds in 9 of the so called systemic projects (ie implemented by the Ministry of Education and Science) in an attempt to convince the EC to reimburse payments. There will be losses in the second group of projects - Grant Schemes "Educational Integration ..." and "Support for pre-school education ..." for schools, kindergartens, municipalities and NGOs. They will have a flat financial correction of 10%, and the EC will reimburse us 43 million and not 48 million. The financial gap will be covered by the MES and not the beneficiaries.

The 2nd and 3rd discontinued payments of the OPSESG(the axes co-financed by the European Social Fund) and the need to invest serious state budget funds still affected the payments to the beneficiaries. Now this can be changed. In response to a question from Deyan Kolev, the executive director of OPSESG declared readiness to invite the first reserves for the grant schemes "Educational integration ..." and "Support for pre-school education ...", and to sign contracts.

The news on the first axis of the OPSESG (co-financed by the European Regional Development Fund and aimed at building the scientific infrastructure) was not that good. The 100 million BGN set for the establishment of Regional Science Centers will have to be transferred from OPSESG to OP "Innovation and Competitiveness" (also co-funded by the European Regional Development Fund) to avoid the risk of their loss. The concluded contracts for operations for Centers of Excellent Achievements and Centers of Competence point to over-concentration in the Southwest region: 67.44% of CCs and 91.20% of CEAs are concentrated there, with no single lev being invested in Northwest Bulgaria. In his speech Deyan Kolev described this as a serious strategic mistake and urged the Managing Authority to look for other mechanisms - operations with specific beneficiaries in Northwestern Bulgaria to support the few universities and colleges in the region.

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