How the public report on donations in the Municipality of Sevlievo is not actually public

Municipality of Sevlievo
Photo: Emilia Dimitrova

In the Municipality of Sevlievo there is no Ordinance for receiving, managing and disposing of donations. There is no internal act either, that would regulate the terms and conditions for concluding donation contracts. But donations are received – without rules and publicity, “Pro Veritas” found. This naturally provokes the question of where they are going to.

In 2019, the Municipality of Sevlievo receives BGN 106,000 in donations from companies and a long list of donations in kind. The money is described in the only report on donations that appeared on the website of the institution at the time when “Pro Veritas” requested a link to the public register of donations and the report is for the period from January 1, 2019 to December 31, 2019. For previous years, there is no report, which hardly means that no donations have been received.

The column against each amount received reads “For support the activities of the Municipality of Sevlievo”, which is very general and gives absolutely no idea how the money was spent. The only specific one is BGN 600, against which it says “support for couples with reproductive problems”.

The same fog covers donations in kind. They are described in two columns – in the first the initials of the donor and in the second – “PBZ – donation in kind”. After a long guessing what is behind the abbreviation PBZ, we came to the conclusion that this is probably a shelter for stray animals, without being completely sure.

Against none of the described donations in BGN and in kind there is a date, number of the contract for donation and the way in which the donation is utilized, i.e. the public report does not give publicity as to whether the Municipality has fulfilled the will of the donor.

When there is no publicity, doubts arise

Undoubtedly, the lack of details about the donations to any municipal administration raises doubts. One of them is whether the donation did not give birth to a commitment, i.e. the municipality to return the “service” in the form of a service contract, for example. The possibility that the donation in kind did not reach its purpose cannot be ignored as well. In fact, this is exactly what provoked the interest in the topic, after a woman born in Sevlievo and living in Sofia, shared that she had made donations to the Municipality, but when she tried to follow their path, she did not get any information. There is a third option – the doubts to be completely unfounded and everything to be according to the rules.

However, in the case of Sevlievo Municipality, there are no rules.

“Municipality of Sevlievo has not adopted an internal act regulating the terms and conditions for concluding contracts for donations, as well as receiving and managing the same,” they wrote in response to an application under the Access to Public Information Act. A reference in the adopted ordinances of the Municipal Council, which are public, also showed that there is no current ordinance for receiving and managing donations. There is no register of donations, unless we count the mentioned report for 2019.

Why there are no rules?

Because the municipalities are not obliged to introduce them. Those who do it anyway (it turned out that they are not few at all), they do it by own self-initiative. In our country there is no legal obligation for municipalities to have internal rules for accepting, receiving and managing donations and there is no obligation that Municipal Councils should adopt an Ordinance on donations and Municipal Administrations should maintain a public register of donations received. The only text in this direction is from the Law on Local Government and Local Administration (LLGLA), which obliges each Municipal Council “to adopt decisions for acquisition, management and disposition of municipal property and to determine the specific powers of the mayor of the Municipality and of the  mayors of regions and mayoralties“.

On this issue, on April 29, 2020, the Municipal Council of Sevlievo has adopted changes in the Ordinance for acquisition, management and disposition of municipal property. According to them, “when the donation is in the form of gratuitous provision of services, through construction and assembly works, maintenance, repair or demolition of buildings, cleaning, landscaping and other public works, the mayor accepts the donation with a written contract and Protocol of Findings for the service provided. The value of the donation shall be certified by financial and accounting documents, including the value of the materials and labor used, which shall be attached to the donation contract.” A separate text refers to the donation of real estates, but there is not a word in it about monetary donations or such in kind, nor the obligation to shed light on the donation.

Although not imperative, many Bulgarian municipalities have highlighted donors and their generosity. Some are more diligent and have described to the penny where and what for the money was spent or where the donations in kind were gone to. Apparently, the Municipality of Sevlievo did not consider that they owe this information to the citizens. They are excused by the fact that the legislator has not adopted an order to oblige the municipalities to be transparent in this part, which is definitely an omission, because when there is a lack of transparency, conjectures and suspicions arise.

 

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