The problems that existed last year have already been resolved. The National Center for Research and Development is working normally – assured Jacek Orzeł, director of NCBR, on Thursday. We had over a hundred inspections, he said. In February 2023, a scandal broke out at NCBR. Controversy around the Center arose in connection with the “Fast Track – Digital Innovations” competition.
The head of the NCBR participated in the meeting of the parliamentary public finance committee, which considered the opinion of the education, science and youth committee on the draft budget act for 2024. Member of Parliament Krystyna Skowrońska (KO) asked, among others: about “the outrageous issues of awarding certain grants for projects.” – There was a CBA at the NCBR (…) How many irregularities were found at the NCBR in 2023, several ministers left, so as people say, there must have been “major” or large irregularities – said Skowrońska.
There were almost 100 inspections at NCBR
The head of the NCBR said that “the problems that occurred last year have already been resolved.” – We had almost a hundred different inspections, most of them ended. More than 50 have ended, about 30 are still ongoing. All of them, in principle, concerned one program “Fast Track, Digital Innovations” – Orzeł reported. He said that “there were relatively many irregularities.” – All institutions that wanted to investigate this matter did so, e.g. the CBA has completed its inspection – he pointed out. The inspection report, he continued, can be found at the NCBR or the CBA. – We have a project control department that monitors all reported irregularities on an ongoing basis. We have external and internal controls and audits, he reported. The head of NCBiR said that people who could be associated with irregularities no longer work at NCBR. – They’re gone. Last year’s turnover was over 20 percent, he said. The vindicated funds, he said, are transferred to subsequent beneficiaries. – The situation is now normalized. NCBR is working normally after the confusion that occurred last year. We simply returned to normal work, he said. He said that separate proceedings are being conducted against persons found to have irregularities.
Inspection of an EU office
NCBR is a state agency supervised, from August 1, 2022, by the Minister of Funds and Regional Policy. The agency supports and creates innovative technological and social solutions. It also initiates and implements projects contributing to the civilizational development of the country. – We will want to reassure the EU institutions regarding NCBR – the head of the Ministry of Science, Dariusz Wieczorek, told PAP on Thursday. He added that representatives of the EU anti-fraud office OLAF are scheduled to visit Poland in January last year. started an inspection at NCBR. In May, NCBR informed that OLAF had started an internal inspection of the institution in connection with the “Fast Track – Digital Innovations” competition, after a previously completed inspection of the Ministry of Funds and Regional Policy, which revealed irregularities in the awarding of subsidies. In a conversation in the PAP Studio on Thursday, the Minister of Science and Higher Education said that “the worst thing would be if, due to these alleged corruption activities (…) we lost the certification regarding the expenditure of European Union funds.”
Doubts surrounding activities at NCBR
Controversy around NCBR arose in connection with the “Fast Track – Digital Innovations” competition. As part of it, a subsidy of PLN 55 million was awarded to a 26-year-old who founded a company after announcing the recruitment for the competition with a share capital of PLN 5,000, and PLN 123 million to a company from Białystok which – as established by MPs from the Civic Coalition, Dariusz Joński and Michał Szczerba – since its establishment in 2020, it has generated losses every year.
Members of Parliament announced at the beginning of March that they had blocked the payment of these two subsidies. They also presented the network of connections between these companies and the Republican Party.
The inspection at NCBR was undertaken by both Central Anticorruption Bureauas well as the Supreme Audit Office. After information about the controversy at the National Center for Research and Development was revealed, Jacek Żalek, who was responsible for supervising NCBR, resigned as deputy minister. Żalek is a member of the Republican Party, which he heads Adam Bielan.
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