The Social Economy Act is needed not only because it implements the obligations contained in the National Reconstruction Plan, but above all to introduce the social economy and tools to support its development in the Polish legal order, and to new impetus for the development of the social economy and entities active in this field.
Nevertheless, the bill proposed by the government must be thoroughly amended, as it contains provisions that are unfavorable from the perspective of the social economy entities, is inconsistent and imprecise and above all does not introduce new significant solutions for the development of the social economy.
At the stage of government work on the draft law on the social economy, all major comments from the social economy circles were consistently rejected by the government [zob. zgłoszone stanowiska]† Therefore, we realize that a thorough reconstruction of the project in the parliamentary phase, while necessary, can be difficult to carry out. Taking this into account, we are proposing several amendments that seem undeniably necessary to make the law more friendly to social economy entities and to minimize the negative impact of its entry into force:
- The definition of the social economy in the draft (Article 2(1)) limits this activity of citizens only to the activities of social economy entities, the catalog of which is limited. Social economy activities can also be carried out by entities other than those mentioned in the project, and in particular by citizens operating within different types of unincorporated groups. Therefore, the law should include the current definition of the social economy included in the national program for the development of the social economy, in which the social economy is not only identified with the activities of social economy entities.
- The definition proposed in the project also does not correspond in substance to the definition in the National Program for the Development of the Social Economy. As a legal definition, it limits the understanding of the social economy by imposing the legal requirement to perform it intentionally pro publico bono, through the formula “activity (…) for the local community”. Legally, this leaves no doubt about the exclusion of the concept of social economy from the activities of entities such as, for example, social cooperatives, if (currently legally) limited to activities aimed exclusively at their employees and cooperatives. The proposed definition will impose the need to directly show the component of activities for the benefit of the local community in a specific scope as the direct basic goal of the social economy, resulting from the linguistic interpretation of this proposal.
- The catalog of social economy entities specified in the draft (Article 2(5)) should be complemented by agricultural production cooperatives, which are an important and one of the few entities active among farmers in the field of the social economy.
- The list of people at risk of social exclusion, who can be helped by social economy entities (Article 2(6)), should be supplemented by three main groups in need of this form of support: the homeless, people who are addicted to alcohol, drugs or other intoxicants and foreigners seeking legalization of residence and/or employment.
- The voivode cannot grant social enterprise status as it has nothing to do with the social economy (Article 12(1)). The social economy support system that the state has developed over the past few years is based on provincial self-government, which coordinates social economy development activities through regional social policy centers and currently participates in the granting of the status of social enterprise. Therefore, it is necessary to replace the voivode in this regard with a regional self-government.
- It will be useful for social enterprises to include a provision in the law that would grant the status of a social enterprise in a situation where the body granting this status does not make a decision within 30 days of the application being made. the granting of social enterprise status, which shortens the registration procedure (possibility of silent settlement in simplified administrative procedures).
- Account should also be taken of the additional powers of social enterprises in tax matters and in the field of public outsourcing, especially in the case of service enterprises. This will motivate the creation of social enterprises and make it easier for them to operate.
- It is also necessary that the possibility to reserve public procurement that is not subject to the value of the public procurement law applies to all entities of the social economy, and not only to social cooperatives and social enterprises (Article 26(1)) . It will be an important impetus to outsource public tasks to non-governmental organizations and other social economy entities, and not just to social cooperatives and social enterprises.
We also support the following proposed changes formulated by the National Audit Union of Social Cooperatives regarding the Social Economy Entity Support System:
- Ensure the participation of representatives of all regional social economy development committees in the national social economy development committee.
- Ensure the participation of regional social economy committees in the preparation and monitoring of regional social economy development programmes.
- Ensure the participation of representatives of social economy circles in the monitoring committees of regional operational programs financed from EU funds. The regional social economy development committees should play an important role in the selection of these representatives.
- Legislative provision that the support services of the social economy support centers are public services or services of general economic interest, referred to in art. 93 and art. 106 paragraph. 2 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, as a result of which they will not be subject to State aid restrictions.
- Strengthen the legal provisions on the cooperation of employment offices with social economy support centers, including the introduction of an obligation to establish each year a pool of resources that employment offices will allocate to different forms of support to social economy entities.
- Unification of provisions in the Social Economy Act and the Social Cooperatives Act in such a way that the conditions for the functioning of cooperatives in terms of the share of employment are not more restrictive than in social enterprises, and that the catalog of social services is identical in both acts .
- Specifying the prohibition that one natural person or one legal person that is not a social economy entity owns more than 50% of the shares in a company, in order to avoid risks related to the dominant position of a single owner/shareholder.
- Introduction of a uniform logo for social economy entities, distinguishing them from entities of a commercial nature.