Czech Government decides today on moving Agency for Social Inclusion to the Regional Development Ministry
The cabinet should decide today on whether to move the Czech Government Agency for Social Inclusion out of the Office of the Government and into the Regional Development Ministry (MMR), where it would function as of January; however, the background materials developed for the cabinet session do not specify how many staffers would be relocated or what the budget will be. The Confederation of Employers' and Entrepreneurial Associations and the Union of Employers' Associations both disagree with the relocation.
In their view, the change means the Government is abandoning an inter-ministerial approach to social inclusion and budget cuts for the agenda can be anticipated. The Finance Ministry, in its own material for next year's budget, is counting on a 10 % reduction to posts at the Office of the Government, the ministries, and other central institutions as of January.
The Office of the Government has justified moving the Agency with reference to "the appropriateness of anchoring the agenda on social inclusion in the context of regional development". The Agency has been in operation since 2008.
Currently it is a department of the Office of the Government. It is meant to aid municipalities in dealing with the problems they have with ghettos or poverty.
In its annual report, the Agency says it collaborated last year with 140 cities and municipalities including more than one-third of the impoverished localities in the Czech Republic and more than half of its excluded inhabitants. Last year the Agency had a budget of CZK 144 700 000 [EUR 5.7 million].
The Agency spent CZK 80.6 million [EUR 3.2 million] of that, CZK 61.1 million of which should be reimbursed to it by the European Union. The Agency has EU money for its activities until 2022.
According to its annual report, city councils have accessed CZK 2.43 billion [EUR 95 million] in investment thanks to its advice. The plan is for the Agency to be closed as a department in the Office of the Government and for a new department to be established at the MMR.
"The scheduled posts and the financing for salaries and operations will be transferred from the budget line for the Office of the Government to that of the ministry," the background materials prepared by the Office of the Government say. The Finance Ministry complained in its comments on the plan that it is basically not clear how much money and how many positions are meant to be transferred.
According to the Office of the Government, all that data will be included in a protocol by the end of the month. According to the original proposal, the protocol was not meant to be completed until the end of October.
The press department of the Office of the Government told the Czech News Agency at the beginning of April that the change would affect 118 employees. The Agency currently belongs under the Human Rights Section at the Office of the Government, which includes the Department on Human Rights and the Department on Equality of Men and Women, as well as the Czech Government Human Rights Council, Council on National Minorities, Romani Minority Affairs Council, Council on the Equality of Men and Women, Council on Nonprofit Organizations, and the Committee for People Living with Disabilities.
That section was led until March by the then-Human Rights Commissioner Martina Štěpánková. At the beginning of May, the cabinet appointed a new Human Rights Commissioner, Czech MP Helena Válková (ANO).
A deputy head of that section has yet to be appointed. It was previously reported that, just like the Agency, the Department on Equality of Men and Women could also be relocated out of the Office of the Government in the future.
In the past that department was part of the Labor Ministry. It has also been debated whether to move the Department of Anti-Drug Policy out of the Office of the Government.
After a critique of that plan by experts, the Office of the Government backed away from it. The MMR would be tasked with arranging for the continuation of two current EU-funded projects and the implementation of two new ones once the Agency moves there.
The MMR would also be meant to ensure the sustainability of projects that have closed, such as the Hate Free campaign combating hate speech. According to the Finance Ministry, a problem could arise with the EU monies due to the relocation, but the Office of the Government says all is in order.
Any Agency selection procedures that are not closed by the end of this year will be cancelled. The MMR will take over all tenders that have been completed by the Agency and for which contracts have been signed.
Neither the Confederation of Employers' and Entrepreneurial Associations nor the Union of Employers' Associations agrees with relocating the Agency to the MMR. According to those groups, doing so will "determine and destroy" the social inclusion agenda and budget cuts for it can be anticipated.
The background materials developed by the Office of the Government do not analyze the anticipated impacts of the move. "Merely stating that this change is proposed with a view to the appropriateness of anchoring the inter-ministerial agenda of social inclusion within the context of developing municipalities and the regions is absolutely insufficient," the organizations said.
They point out that social inclusion cannot just be reduced to the concept of regional development. The organizations perceive the relocation to mean the "Government is abandoning" a coordinated approach by the ministries on that issue.
According to an analysis commissioned by the Labor Ministry, in 2006 there were about 300 apartment buildings, neighborhoods or entire streets in the country with approximately 80 000 impoverished residents. Ten years later, more than 600 ghettos were inhabited by as many as 115 000 such people.
The Agency has been focused on improving their housing, employment, education, social work and health care. It has also worked on a bill about social enterprises and contributed to drafting a law on debt relief.
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