Committee okays municipality financing bill

Ljubljana, 21 December - The parliamentary Home Policy Committee endorsed on Tuesday amendments to the financing of municipalities act. The proposal would bring more clarity in setting the purpose of allocating funds to municipalities with Roma settlements, and add IT to the tasks of joint municipal administrations.

The changes relate, among other things, to a solution that was included in the municipal costs reduction act, said Public Administration Ministry State Secretary Urška Ban. There, municipalities with registered Roma settlements were provided with an additional funding of 3.5% of their eligible expenditure.

Afterwards, some municipalities warned about disproportionality when calculating the amount of funds allocated to each municipality with Roma settlements, Ban said.

At the same time, it was noted that some municipalities had interpreted the provision in question to mean that the funds were intended primarily for the Roma population, including by distributing them to households as subsidies, for example to pay for electricity and water.

However, this was not the aim of the provision, Ban said, so the amendments clearly set down that these funds are meant as an adjustment to the municipalities' eligible expenditure since the fact they include Roma settlements means higher costs.

These funds are therefore part of the municipalities' eligible expenditure and are as such not earmarked, and the municipalities do not have to report specifically on their use.

The proposal was endorsed by all deputy groups bar the Left's deputy faction. Left MP Nataša Sukič said the amendments did not contain any safeguards to ensure that the municipalities would actually invest the funds in efforts to improve the status of Roma communities, instead they would be able to spend them at will.

Sukič pointed to what her party sees as the vague wording of the proposal, saying she feared that this would lead to abuse. Jani Möderndorfer, an MP of the Marjan Šarec List (LMŠ), also noted the absence of such a safeguard, but announced that he would not oppose the proposal.

Meanwhile, the remaining deputy groups, both from the coalition and opposition, responded to these concerns by saying that this was not about the funds being either earmarked or not, as this issue had already been sorted out in the municipal costs reduction act.

Anja Bah Žibert, an MP of the ruling Democrats (SDS), said that it was only a matter of correcting the municipalities' appropriate spending to enable them to develop and make progress, including in terms of coexistence with the Roma community.

The state secretary meanwhile highlighted that these funds were not earmarked for projects, such as building infrastructure in Roma settlements, adding that open calls would continue to be published for such purposes.

The bill also adds the field of IT to the list of tasks of joint municipal administrations that are co-financed from the state budget. The proposed addition to the existing eleven tasks would help step up IT empowerment of municipalities, particularly in providing services to citizens, said Ban.

© STA, 2021