Poland… It’s a funny place

During the summer months I had some time to reflect on administrative absurdities in Poland.

One that immediately springs to mind is the fact that construction and engineering companies currently have about 3 billion zlotys in claims against the Roads Authority. Although part of these claims is probably exaggerated, it is still likely that a large part of this money will in fact have to be paid to those who worked on the roads. But the authorities in Poland often seem to believe that it is most prudent not to make any decisions and just wait and see what happens. For the civil servant it is of course always safer when a court (preferably an appeal court) makes the decision for him.
The fact that the taxpayer (in some cases the EU taxpayer) not only has to pay for the roads, but also for the lawyers and the courts that are having to do the work of the civil servant, seems to be of no consequence. Even politicians like to bring part of the political debate to the courtroom in the form of libel cases, and those poor judges have to deal with all of this, and we – the taxpayers – have to pay.Another interesting case is that of a Polish businessman who owned some property in Warsaw. In 2002 this land was expropriated in order to build roads in a new development. In 2003 the businessman filed a request for compensation to which he is entitled based on the waste management act.
A year later the mayor of Warsaw decided to discontinue the procedure. The businessman appealed to the voivodship governor, who backed the Warsaw mayor of Warsaw. In 2005 the Administrative Court in Warsaw overturned the decision of the mayor of Warsaw and determined that the businessman was entitled to compensation for the land that was taken from him. In 2006 the mayor put the process on hold, which was overturned by the voivodship governor in 2008. In 2010 the mayor decided against compensation and in the same year the voivodship governor sent the whole case back to the court of first instance to be reviewed again.
According to the city authorities, the businessman can expect a decision no later than March 2014. One can only wonder what the meaning is of Art. 35 of the Administrative Code, which puts a maximum term on difficult administrative decisions of two months. A friend of mine recently asked the city to grant him an easement on his driveway, which is owned by the city; he has been waiting for a reply for over a year. When we called the city, the civil servant replied she had too much work and was alone doing it and that we just had to wait.
What can you do, file a complaint against a civil servant who still has to make a decision in a matter that is important to you?The best case though is the one of a lawyer friend of mine who was working on an inheritance case. The court had asked the hospital for medical files, for which the hospital issued an invoice of PLN 13 to the court (the cost of copies). The court actually took an official decision to pay the invoice, and sent a copy of this decision to all four participants in the case costing PLN 16 in stamps, not counting the time spent on making the decision, signing the paper, putting it in the envelope….. Still, we all love doing business in Poland and most of the chamber’s members are pretty successful at that.

Originaly published in Bulletin 44 by Remco van der Kroft