On November 9 this year. The Supreme Audit Office has presented the results of an inspection conducted in connection with the implementation of the Multiannual Program “Construction of a waterway connecting the Vistula Lagoon with the Gulf of Gdansk.” The conclusions of the audit are unequivocal – the Vistula Spit cross-cut proved to be poorly planned, and serious negligence, unreliability and even violations of the law were committed during the work.
Assumptions of the Multiannual Program
The Vistula Spit Crossing is a project whose main goal was to ensure security and increase prosperity in the region. By design, the construction of the shipping canal is intended to allow seagoing vessels year-round access to Elblag, which will increase the city’s importance as a European port. In addition to the crosscut itself, the project includes the construction of associated infrastructure, a waterway to the Elbląg Bay and the modernization of the entrance to the city’s port.
The total value of the investment was estimated at PLN 880 million, all of which came from the state budget. The relevant resolution on the Multi-Year Program was adopted on May 24, 2016. The Minister of Infrastructure was designated as the disposer of the funds, while the Maritime Office in Gdynia was designated as the contractor.
Irregularities at the preparation stage
A NIK audit completed in April this year showed that the Minister had improperly prepared the Program, relying on unreliable studies prepared by the director of the Gdynia City Hall. The calculations, based on outdated data, failed to estimate the actual material and financial needs of the project. As a result, the value of the project increased by 125 percent, reaching almost PLN 2 billion.
As early as June 2019, when the director of the UM signed the first construction contract for the sum of 991 million zlotys, it was already known that the Vistula Spit cross-cut would exceed the level of profitability. However, the minister did not inform the Council of Ministers of this fact. The reason for the increase in costs was that it became necessary to carry out additional tasks that had not been considered at the planning stage.
Crossing the Vistula Spit as an example of a badly run investment
In May 2023. The Council of Ministers increased the funds allocated for the investment to nearly PLN 2.13 billion and extended the time for its implementation until 2024. Even before the Prime Minister signed the relevant resolution, the Minister of Infrastructure assured the UM director that additional funds would be allocated. According to the NIK, this was a blatant violation of the rules for disposing of public funds.
The NIK concludes that the UM director’s actions repeatedly went beyond the regulations, and the Minister accepted and justified this situation. The director has demonstrated unreliability in the preparation of tender documents and financial plans. The team charged with implementing the Multi-Year Program was established three years late, and its procedures were flawed.
The Vistula Spit Crossing was threatened in 2021, when the Maritime Office ran out of funds to carry out further investment work. According to the NIK, the director of the Maritime Office violated the principles of reliability, legality, economy and expediency. It was found that 13 contracts were concluded in clear excess of authority, and some expenditures were quite unjustified.
As many as 160 of the 161 tasks were completed with delays of up to 2017 days. The cost of irregularities amounted to more than $381,000. PLN, of which 213 thousand. was spent in contravention of the tax law. The audit also found that there had been serious negligence in the establishment of architectural and investor supervision, and that some construction work had been received by people without authorization. Neither the UM director nor the Minister of Infrastructure conducted the reporting required by the RM resolution. Allegations have also been made against the director of the Elblag Sea Port Authority (ZPME), who has failed to fulfill his obligations in connection with the preparation of the strategy and land management.
Conclusions of the NIK on the construction of the canal through the Vistula Spit
The negative results of the audit prompted the NIK to make a number of recommendations to the Prime Minister, the Minister of Infrastructure and the director of the Gdynia City Hall. The Prime Minister was charged with strengthening the control mechanisms over the Minister and ensuring that the activities contained in the Development Programs are adequate to the planned results.
The minister should strengthen control over the compliance of activities with the law and the expediency and economy of expenditures. The NIK also requests an evaluation of the Program’s implementation to date to identify risk factors. The UM director is expected to complete work on time, conclude contracts within the time and amounts stipulated by the Program, make expenditures economically, and conduct proper investor supervision.
According to the NIK, the Vistula Spit Crossing, after taking into account the additional work needed at the Elbląg port, could nevertheless contribute to the region’s development, but in a much less optimistic way than anticipated.