Public works delivery in the Slovak Republic: Part II

Dr. Ladislav Zahumensky
Executive Director
Slovak Public Works Association

In the April 2000 issue of the APWA Reporter, we mentioned some basic information about Slovakia, its public works delivery system, and Slovak Public Works Association's (SPWA) history and activities since 1990, after the fall of communism. Since then, several important things have taken place and were accomplished.

SPWA was happy to accept the invitation to APWA's Congress in Louisville in September 2000, where the contacts between APWA and SPWA concluded with an official APWA-SPWA alliance agreement.

Four delegates from SPWA attended the official Congress and, on September 13, this agreement was signed by the presidents of APWA and SPWA. Each party has established 3-5 member Task Force Committees that will be working on accomplishing the goals set forth in the agreement. SPWA has named to this committee the following members: Dr. Ladislav Zahumensky-SPWA executive director; Ondrej Placko, Ladislav Chrenko, and Oliver Celko-SPWA presidium members. (As of this writing, the APWA Task Force Committee members have not been selected, but will be in the near future-Ed.)

The SPWA delegates appreciate the hospitality and sincere interest of the APWA representatives and members they met during their stay in Louisville, and express admiration of the highly professional manner in how the Congress and Exposition were handled.

Along with its contacts and collaboration with APWA, SPWA has made closer contacts with partner associations in its neighboring Central European countries: Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic. (Note: This Central European region-Poland, Hungary, Czech Republic, and Slovakia-tends to be called the Vishegrad four, or V4.)

Collaboration of these four countries in economic, cultural, social, and other areas has existed since 1994. The purpose of this collaboration is to eliminate the impact of communism and build a standard democratic society. The agreement was signed in the Hungarian town of Vishegrad, hence the explanation above as to why the region is known as the Vishegrad four (or V4).

Public works associations exist in all of the V4 countries, and the representatives of these have agreed that the development and problems in public works delivery in the V4 region are identical. In general, we sum them up as follows:

* Frequent tension, conflict, and mutual distrust between public works company managers and local government staff, mayors, and councils.

* Villages (communities) provide less money for public works, but require the same quality and quantity of services.

* Not honoring existing agreements and terms of payment for completed services.

* Ineffective management of public works companies owned by towns and villages. There is a need to increase motivation and qualifications of top management and their staff.

* Lack of political will or direction to make unpopular (although from an economical and efficiency perspective, necessary) measures for elimination of non-effective activities and the unemployment rate.

* Lack of qualified and objective analysis of the need for privatization of public works activities.

* Frequently, towns are at a disadvantage in negotiating service contracts, mainly from private companies. These contracts often unduly burden town and village budgets, and the costs are passed on to the citizens.

* There is a need to analyze these issues and problems, understand their causes, and establish a future direction for effective and efficient public works service delivery.

* There is a need for an effective and high quality educational system for public works delivery managers.

It is obvious that it would be very useful to cooperate and coordinate the strategies of V4 public works associations in order to improve the situation in public works delivery. Representatives of V4 public works associations welcome the chance to collaborate more closely with APWA, since APWA has a great deal of experience in public works delivery, privatization, and re-privatization in this field under the conditions of market economy and democratic local government. Therefore, they appreciate the work that has been accomplished by SPWA and APWA representatives and express their definite interest to join this collaboration within the whole region of the Vishegrad four.

It was agreed at the APWA Congress in Louisville that a delegation from APWA will visit SPWA's General Assembly (GA) in Slovakia in the spring of 2001 and, if possible, visit the V4 region as well.

SPWA has successfully coordinated the GAs of the Public Works Associations of Slovakia, Poland, and the Czech Republic. This means that the visitors will be able to attend all three GAs and visit public works agencies and utilities in the three countries. In addition, they may participate in sightseeing tours at the locations of each GA in 10 days. The possibility of visiting the Hungarian partner Public Works Association is still being discussed.

V4 association representatives and members expect that the spring 2001 meeting with APWA delegates will bring further possibilities for a more specific alliance by solving specific problems.

We hope that we will be able to welcome a delegation from APWA and "pay back" the hospitality that we encountered on our visit. We strongly believe that the collaboration and mutual exchange of experience among North American and Central European professionals will be useful for both parties and will soon bring benefit for the citizens of our towns and communities.

Dr. Ladislav Zahumensky
Executive Director of SPWA

For those interested in attending our General Assembly (GA) and visiting Slovakia and the V4 region, please see the following information:

It will be our pleasure to welcome public works professionals from all over the world to our spring General Assemblies and introduce them to our conditions of work and our region.

Dates of GAs of the Public Works Associations in Slovakia, Poland, and the Czech Republic:

* GA of the SPWA will be held April 20-21 in the HIGH TATRAS.

* GA of the Polish Public Works Association will be held April 25-28 in USTRONIE.

* GA of the Public Works Assocation of the Czech Republic will be held April 26-27 in NOVA PAKA.

All three places are within driving distance from each other. Exhibition of the equipment is a part of each assemby.

There are also available pre- and post-GA sightseeing tours and bus trips around the V4 region, including visiting the metropolitan areas of Prague, Vienna (Austria), Bratislava and Budapest; boat trips on the river Danube; and many more sightseeing possibilities.

Those who are interested in visiting and would like more information on the GAs, presentation of their companies or equipment, trips, bus tours, and registration please feel free to contact us by phone, fax or e-mail:

SPWA: Michal and Ladislav Zahumensky
Phone/fax number: +421 7 4488 7505
Cell phone: +421 903 224 565
E-mail: rtc@nci.sk