Soon, they will be dissolved but they are still employing; an unusual austerity plan

Autor:

30.11.2018.

Zagreb, 291018.
Rektorat sveucilista u Zagrebu. Predsjednik Vlade Andrej Plenkovic sudjelovao je na 1. sjednici Rektorskoga zbora u akademskoj 2018. - 2019. godini. Uz predsjednika Vlade sjednici je nazocila i ministrica znanosti i obrazovanja Blazenka Divjak.
Na fotografiji: Blazenka Divjak.
Foto: Bruno Konjevic / CROPIX
Bruno Konjevic / CROPIX

Minister Blazenka Divjak

Education and Teacher Training Agency will soon be dissolved, but it is hiring 10 employees.

The Government drafted regulations on the new education agency which should be created through merger of the Education and Teacher Training Agency (AZOO) and the Vocational Education and Training Agency (ASOO). The new agency will be called the Vocational and Teacher Education and Training Agency (AZOOSO). Heads of the two agencies claim that they have not heard about merger plans.

Regulations on the new agency are result of the Government's rationalization plans for entities with public authority. While the Government stressed in the draft that new regulations will save the State money, it is interesting to note that the Ministry of Science, Education and Sports approved ASOO's request to hire new workers before the merger - ten new expert advisers.

Job vacancies

The ASOO launched the competition on 20 November and is looking for: expert advisers for training, specialization, professional certification, development of qualifications and standards, public procurement, advisers for students with special needs and recognition of foreign education qualifications as well as expert advisers for architecture, civil engineering, land survey, economics and business communication. The agency stressed that it is filing job vacancies, noting that some employees have quit or retired. It confirmed that the Ministry approved its request to launch the competition.

The AZOO currently employs 130 people and the ASOO employs approximately 150, which means that the new agency that would be created through merger would have approximately as many employees as the Ministry of Science, Education and Sports. According to the draft act, "adoption should immediately save the State money for wages of head and five managers of the ASOO." ASOO head Mile Živčić has not heard of or seen this plan and is taken aback, which comes as no surprise.

- I am not aware of proposed regulations. I believe that, from our perspective, the change will slow down implementation of our projects and potentially jeopardize some results - said Živčić.

Where are the savings?

Besides being the only State institution for education of adults, the ASOO has proved to be one of the institutions with highest capacity for absorption of EU funds in public administration.

Value of its EU projects in the last four years exceeds HRK 160 million, which is 69 million more than the agency's budgets since founding combined. It is about to sign a project worth HRK 232 million. Živčić revealed that the project is focused on modernization of vocational education and added that the decision on financing will be made soon. Živčić does not understand how the agency about to be dissolved could finance the project.

At the same time, the savings to be made from replacing the head of the agency is minimal because Mile Živčić came to the helm of the agency from the position of employee, which means that he can return to his previous post in the agency, as he confirmed. AZOO head Jadranka Žarković-Pečenković is surprised by the Government's plan.

-The Ministry of Science, Education and Sports is responsible for assessing merger of institutions within the system, but it should conduct comprehensive analyses and present arguments.

It would be good if the Ministry asked for our comment. Nobody asked us to comment on the purpose of the agency - said Žarković-Pečinković.

She pointed out that the AZOO was founded in 1874 and has existed as an institution since then under different names. It provides expert advice to education system employees.

- I believe that the AZOO should exist in its current form as an independent institution because of its role in the system - said Žarković-Pečinković.

The first agency is situated in Amruš Street in Zagreb, while the second one is situated in the Ministry's building in Donje Svetice, which cannot fit additional 150 people according to well-informed sources. Both buildings are rented.

The agency which is to be merged proved as one of the best in absorption of EU funds - it absorbed HRK 160 million in four years.

Ministry: merger will improve efficiency, regulations will be adopted in 2019

The Ministry of Science, Education and Sports explained that the Government's plan is to lower expenditures and improve efficiency of the system, stressing that it is more acceptable for end users from the perspective of transparency to have one large body with clearly defined authorities than many bodies whose authorities overlap.

-We have determined that the AZOO, the ASOO, the National Center for External Evaluation of Education (NCVVO), the Agency for Science and Higher Education (AZVO), the National Foundation for Support of Student Living Standard (NZPUSS) and the Croatian Academic and Research Network (CARNET) operate as part of the Ministry of Science, Education and Sports, and their authorities overlap, which is why it is not practical to have many institutions, but is financially prudent to form an agency

that will perform the tasks of said institutions - stressed the Ministry of Science, Education and Sports. Adoption of new regulations is expected in 2019. As far as approval for ASOO's employment, it noted that competitions were launched for work on projects and filling job vacancies with the aim of securing normal operation after employees resign or retire.

 

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