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The System of Public Administration in Poland


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The System of Public Administration in Poland
In a general sense, the ‘administrative system’ may be defined as the totality of the principles of organization and operation of public administration. In a narrow sense, the administrative system is usually taken to mean an organizational system or structure based on law, within the framework of which public administration functions, and also the operational mechanism of the entire structure and its parts. In addition, it includes functional connections, rules and methods of proceeding designed to guarantee flawless operation of the entire system and its segments.

A. Central Administration
Central administration constitutes an important segment of the administrative apparatus situated on the highest level of its organizational structure. It includes a fairly complex organizational and functional mechanism composed of various organs, offices, agencies and institutions {e.g., governmental agencies or special funds) set up to fulfill the respective tasks of public administration throughout the entire country. The shape of this mechanism is outlined in general terms by the Constitution and specified in more detail by ordinary legislation and executive orders issued on a statutory basis.
Central administration is internally diversified. It is divided into two basic segments, the political-governmental and the administrative-executive. To distinguish these two principal components of the central apparatus, they are traditionally called the ‘main’ and ‘central’ organs (the so-called central offices). The political-governmental component consists of the Council of Ministers, the Prime Minister, ministers (usually heads of specific departments) and chairmen of certain committees designated by law as being of ministerial rank. Academic writers often also include the President of the Republic in the category of high administrative organs. These are the key elements of the entire country's administrative apparatus. Their dominant position is reflected in the way these elements are aligned in a machinery of political power and participate in the determination of state policy, thus assuming a superior position in relation to other organs, including various central administrative organs. In turn, the administrative-executive component consists of the remaining organizational parts of central administration, each of which is subordinated to one of the organs of the political-governmental segment.
B. The President of the Republic of Poland
The characterization of the President as one of the main organs of the administration may be derived (pochodzić, wywodzić się) from the Constitution, which considers this office one of ‘executive power.’ Nonetheless, the status of the President (elected in universal, equal, secret and direct ballot - głosowanie) is special and decidedly different from the position of any other administrative organ. The Presidency is unique because it has extensive and important prerogatives that transcend the sphere of the so- called executive power and reach into the sphere of competence of other state authorities. For example, in certain circumstances the President may dissolve (rozwiązać) the Sejm (the first chamber of Parliament), which automatically results in the dissolution of the Senate (the second chamber of Parliament). The President also participates in the legislative process by exercising the power to veto parliamentary statutes or sign them into law. Finally, he appoints (mianuje) judges, grants citizenship, awards orders and distinctions (wyróżnienia) and may grant clemency (ułaskawienie). Moreover, the Constitution describes the President as the supreme representative of the Republic of Poland and the guarantor of the continuity of state authority. Therefore, the President serves as a guardian of observance of the Constitution and protector of the sovereignty (suwerenność) and security of the country, as well as the inviolability (nienaruszalność) and integrity of its territory. Although the President has no enumerated powers related to the aforementioned matters, his high constitutional status allows him to act as Poland’s representative in relation to all other organs when matters of the utmost (najważniejszy, największy) state importance are at stake (stawka). All of these prerogatives determine a characteristic and unique presidential rank in comparison to the other main organs, although this rank is reflected primarily in the political rather than the legal arena. For that reason presidential functions may not be characterized simply as the execution of administrative duties.
C. The Council of Ministers
The Council of Ministers (or the Cabinet) is composed of the President of the Council (Prime Minister or Premier), Deputy (zastępca, w tym znaczeniu wice premier) Prime Ministers and ministers.10 The Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Ministers may also act as ministers in that they may be charged with the duty of managing specific departments. Furthermore, the Council may include chairpersons of special committees if a statute gives them a rank equal to the ministers.
The Constitution considers the Council of Ministers an executive power. In popular parlance, it is often referred to as the ‘government.’ However, in contrast to previous constitutions, the 1997 Constitution does not equate the Council of Ministers with the ‘government,’ which is perceived primarily in political terms with structural matters falling to the background. Consequently, one can speak about the ‘government’ in a narrow and broad sense. In the narrow sense, the government is simply equated with the Council of Ministers. In the broad sense, it encompasses an organizationally complex mechanism, a ‘working system’ established to govern the country in a political sense and also to determine the policy of the state, to prepare principles for the implementation of this policy, to create overall (ogólne) conditions for the execution of tasks delineated (sformułowane) within this policy and, finally, to direct the implementation processes in various areas of the administration and economy. Under this approach, the Council of Ministers is seen as a fundamental, but not the only structural component of the ‘government.’ Other components are the Prime Minister, ministers (not necessarily assembled at a session of the Council), special governmental plenipotentiaries (pełnomocnicy) charged with the implementation of specific tasks and, finally, governors (naczelnicy, prezesi) (regional chiefs) who serve as the representatives of the Council of Ministers in the field. The broader concept of the ‘government’ does not, however, strip the Council of Ministers of its governmental features. The Council’s status as the principal element of government in a political sense, as well as the hub of all governmental operations, can be derived from several constitutional provisions that indicate that the Council is a body designed to conduct the country’s domestic and foreign policy and decide on all matters of domestic policy, unless some of these matters are statutorily assigned to other state organs or local authorities. The Constitution also furnishes the Council of Ministers with a number of other tasks and corresponding powers connected to directing the country’s development, setting the policy for the management of public affairs and making important decisions pertaining to the administration and the economy.
The Council of Ministers, as the main pillar of political authority, is also part of the system of public administration. Its position and role, however, are special because it directs the entire state administration and is superior to it, thus fastening (to fasten związać) together the entire administrative apparatus at the central level. The Council’s special position also derives from its managerial, supervisory (nadzorczy) and coordinating powers, which are exercised (wykonywane) directly in relation to the central and other subordinate organs and, indirectly through them, to all of the agencies of public administration.
D. The Prime Minister (Premier)
The Prime Minister plays a key role within the system of governmental operations and constitutes one of the most significant components of the central administration. The Prime Minister’s legal position and role result primarily from his important function of presiding (przewodniczenie) over the Council of Ministers. In addition, he possesses unique characteristics as a monocratic and independent organ of state administration, equipped with unique duties and powers.
The Prime Minister, as head of the Council of Ministers, directs the Council’s activities and acts as its representative. In addition to these organizational functions, the Premier is in charge of the ongoing activities of the Council of Ministers and is politically accountable for the effects of its actions. He designates the area and scope of each minister’s activities and coordinates and supervises their work. As a supreme organ of state administration, he is charged with many other tasks. Consequently, he enjoys many prerogatives in a wide array of spheres from lawmaking (e.g., issuing ordinances) to personnel decisions. The normative sources of the Prime Minister’s tasks and prerogatives (e.g., the lawmaking power) are found mostly in ordinary legislation and, to a lesser extent, in constitutional provisions.
The Prime Minister is assisted by Deputy Prime Ministers who function within the framework of the tasks and powers of the Prime Minister and within a scope specified by him. Therefore, they are not considered autonomous administrative organs. The Office of the Prime Minister constitutes an important link between the organizational structure and the operating mechanism of the system of government. Its main purpose is to assist the Council of Ministers and the Prime Minister in performing their duties.
E. Ministers
The Constitution distinguishes two basic categories of ministers, each with a distinct legal status. Their common feature is membership in the Council of Ministers. The two categories of ministers are also part of the mechanism understood in political terms as the government.
Ministers of the first category, the so-called departmental ministers, manage specific departments. The departments for which they are responsible are listed in the 1997 Governmental Administration Act that divides the entire field of administration into 32 departments and outlines the principal subject matters covered by each of them. Furthermore, the Act outlines the basic organs and central offices situated within the departments that are subordinate to each respective minister. The Prime Minister, when determining the tasks of the governmental administration and planning the composition of the Council, must decide which department (or departments) should be within the scope of responsibility of particular ministers. The Prime Minister also must decide how to allocate budgetary resources among the ministers and designate ministries (or other offices of the governmental administration) to serve the respective ministers. The duties and prerogatives of departmental ministers are prescribed in parliamentary statutes and subordinate legislation, which together regulate the matters relevant to each department. These are, in a way, their ‘own’ duties and prerogatives. This means that ministers, in addition to being members of the Council, simultaneously act as autonomous, high administrative authorities.
The second category of ministers are those appointed to perform specific tasks that the Prime Minister has assigned to them by virtue of his authority. They do not manage any department, but rather deal with matters assigned to them on an ad hoc basis by the Prime Minister. Consequently, they are titled ‘ministers without portfolio.’ Unlike ministers responsible for a given department, these ministers are not considered autonomous organs of the administration although they are full members of the Council.
F. Central Organs (Central Offices)
As previously mentioned, in addition to the political-governmental segment of the central administration, there exists the administrative-executive segment which includes organs of central administration, traditionally called ‘central offices,’ because they cannot properly be characterized as organs of supreme authority. These offices belong to a general category of agencies bearing various names and having different organizational structures, functions and positions within the system of central administration (e.g., the Chief of the Main Statistical Office or the Chief of Police). In spite of some differences, each unit included in the category of central offices enjoys the legal status of an autonomous administrative organ with its own powers prescribed by law.
Within the structure of central administration, the central offices form a level just below the governmental main organs and are subordinated either to one of the ministers or directly to the Prime Minister. These offices are not only organizational units of the central administration, but they also constitute its important substantive element. They handle a variety of matters related to the implementation of everyday tasks, including tasks of a political and administrative nature. The significance and role of these bodies within the entire administrative apparatus derive from their statutory authority over specific areas {e.g., licensing) as well as the supervisory and protective functions of the administration. In addition, these offices perform some types of services {e.g., statistical). Understandably, the concept of ‘administering’ refers to making decisions of an individual and general nature and, to some extent, to collaborating in the formulation of policy for the areas within the spheres of interest of each office. However, the principal object of the operation and activity of the central offices is the everyday execution of the law and the administrative tasks assigned to them. As a consequence, such offices remain fairly independent and are fairly immune to fluctuations at the higher governmental level that is naturally very susceptible (podatny) to the political environment. Fortunately, the Polish political system has finally matured to the point that the central offices have become a stable and politically neutral element of the central administrative apparatus.
In addition, there exists within this segment of the central administration system an elaborate and varied assembly of all sorts of auxiliary (pomocniczy) bodies of an advisory nature {e.g., advisory councils and commissions) that are usually subordinated to high administrative organs (Council of Ministers, Prime Minister or ministers), but sometimes also act as auxiliary bodies to the central offices.
G. Local Administration
Local administration is embedded in the territorial units of the state and arranged into well-structured organizational systems. Presently, there are three types of territorial division: basic, special and auxiliary. The basic division is composed of three tiers, starting from the top with a region, continuing to a district, and then to the bottom territorial unit of a commune. These tiers form the spatial basis for the functioning of the main pillars of public administration, i.e., the governmental administration and local self-government. In turn, the role of special divisions is to enable the functioning of specialized organs of public authority that do not fit into the basic division. Finally, the auxiliary division splits communes into smaller units such as rural settlements, which are useful for the smooth functioning and implementation of tasks of local government at the grass-roots level.
Much like central administration, the local administration constitutes an elaborate and complex organizational and functional system spread over several levels of management. The general principles of the territorial administration system are set forth in the Constitution. It states, in particular, that the country’s territorial structure is based on the decentralization of public power and the principle of subsidiarity, which are both meant to enhance the powers of citizens and communities. Following these constitutional precepts, a fairly large and independent local sphere has been separated from public administration and moved to specific self-government units, primarily to territorial self-government (the decentralization principle). Consequently, the state is to retain only that part of its authority and public tasks that must be performed on the state level, mostly because they cannot be performed by citizens, communities or civic organizations (the subsidiarity principle).11
The current organizational and functional structure of local administration is the result of an ambitious reform carried out in 1999. The redesigned structure is supported by two basic pillars: the governmental administration apparatus and territorial self-government. All tasks of state importance are formulated at the central level, but must be implemented by local units, which belong to the sphere of governmental administration. The fundamental organ of governmental administration in the field, the governor, is the representative of the Council of Ministers and, as such, the main creator of state-wide policy. This means that tasks within the scope of authority of governmental administration are, at the same time, tasks of state importance. For this very reason it is the state that is responsible for their realization. These tasks primarily involve issues of public security and order, and also the setting of generally binding standards that secure, from the point of view of the public interest, the uniform functioning of the entire mechanism of public administration (the focus here is on the supervision over self-government). Governmental administration is also responsible for tasks that should be performed nationwide according to uniform rules and standards (e.g., firefighting or law enforcement services). Finally, the governmental administration usually takes under its wing various tasks of a special nature that require the application of specific principles of operation, as well as innovative organizational, technical and staffing solutions that would be too difficult or too costly for local authorities to assume.
The remaining tasks, for which administration in the field is responsible, are allocated to bodies independent of the state including, above all, territorial self-government, which is a unique body that exists within the state structure. It consists of groups of citizens inhabiting a certain territory (be it a commune, district or region), called upon to perform certain public tasks in their own name and on their own account, who are equipped with certain legal instruments (e.g., the authority to perform administrative oversight) and material resources allowing them to perform these tasks independently.
The self-government administration deals with tasks of a local dimension that are of direct concern to local residents of a given community and other subjects of varying legal status (e.g., companies, enterprises, organizational units, associations and so on) operating in the area. Generally speaking, units of self-government are expected to perform tasks aimed at satisfying the needs, safeguarding the rights and solving the problems of all of the aforementioned subjects. These tasks are also related to the overall development of the area (e.g., living conditions, technological infrastructure or organizational issues). Self- government’s administrative responsibilities include, in particular, providing a variety of routine services (e.g., education, healthcare and social welfare) to which every resident and member of the community is entitled. The totality of tasks and functions of local government reflects two types of administrative activities: one that serves and one that controls. The first type focuses mainly on fulfilling certain local needs, and the second on taking care of concrete individual concerns of citizens by issuing (wydawanie) decisions in specific cases and setting rules, norms and standards through the promulgation of local regulations. Note here that within the scope of the functioning of local government one may find tasks ordinarily belonging to the sphere of governmental administration that have been bestowed on local governments by statutes or accords.
H. Governmental Administration
Governmental administration is organized primarily at the regional level and is composed of two sub-systems: integrated and non-integrated. Only to a small extent do its structures appear at the district level. In contrast, governmental administration in the functional sense reaches down to lower territorial levels since its tasks can be performed by territorial or other types of local self- government.
Of fundamental significance is the integrated administration organized around the governor (the region’s chief). Recall that the governor is not only an organ of governmental administration in the field, but also the representative of the Council of Ministers in the region. His constitutional role within the governmental administration system is described by organic statutes, especially the 1998 Act regulating governmental administration in regions that specify the governor’s prerogatives. These include exercising supreme authority over the governmental administration in the field, supervising units of territorial self- government, representing the State Treasury and acting as an appellate body reviewing administrative decisions issued on the basis of the Code of Administrative Procedure. Moreover, under special circumstances, the Council of Ministers may authorize the governor to act as its special representative regarding certain specific regional matters.
The governor has the powers of general administration, which makes his office responsible for the implementation of state interests in the region. He is obliged to guarantee proper and efficacious performance of the functions of the state. These functions mainly include the protection of internal security, peace and public order as well as observance of the law by organs of public administration, business entities, other organizational units and citizens, especially during states of emergency (e.g., natural disasters or social unrest). As a result, the governor is accountable for the proper functioning of the entire administration in the region, including the units of integrated administration operating in the region under his supervision. Consequently, the governor is politically accountable not only for his own actions and the diligent and proper performance of his own duties, but also for the actions of many other agencies under his authority.
The purpose of integrated administration is to assist the governor in fulfilling the statutory tasks of the organ that has the authority of general administration and is the center of operations responsible for the totality of a region’s affairs. Therefore, the entire administrative functioning, or at least its most substantial part, is concentrated in one administrative unit within one office with one person in charge. Consequently, providers of basic services, as well as inspectorate officials and guards functioning in the region, report directly to the governor. Although they are not brought together in one agency, they operate on behalf of the governor and under his direction and tutelage (nadzór). Moreover, the governor has the decisive voice on appointments to the chief positions in the agencies under his command.
As the local representative of the Council of Ministers, the governor is obliged to pursue governmental policy, adapt its objectives to local conditions and ensure that the policy is being properly implemented by all of the units of public administration, especially by governmental administration. Hence, the governor has at his disposal fairly extensive and powerful measures of influence upon various units, including those within the non-integrated administration segment. In particular, he may issue instructions, give orders, request information and ask for position statements to ensure that tasks arising from the implementation of governmental policy are properly carried out. In addition to his supervisory powers over the self-government, the governor may influence it in other ways. For instance, he may carry out ongoing oversight (nadzór) of the self- government agencies and may give binding instructions to the authorities of self-government agencies in crisis situations (e.g., in the case of natural disasters).
The governor is appointed and recalled (odwołany) by the Prime Minister on motion (na wniosek) of the minister in charge of public administration. The governor is thus linked organizationally to the Council of Ministers and the Prime Minister. In particular, his term of office is linked to that of the Council. If the Council resigns or is voted out of office, then the governors and their deputies must submit their resignations. The relationship between the governor and the Prime Minister is even closer. The Prime Minister directs the governor’s activities by issuing orders and instructions in addition to supervising his activities and periodically assessing his performance.
The second component of governmental administration is the non-integrated administration, i.e., the organs of territorial government administration outside the governmental administration at the region and district level. The non-integrated administration structures are organizationally separate from the governor and, although not entirely independent, not subordinated to him. Instead, these structures are subordinated to organs of central administration on a higher level within a vertical system and, on the central administration level, to the respective ministers or other agencies of the central administration. Most non-integrated administration organs are located in the special territorial division units of administration. Currently, non-integrated administration is statutorily limited to few specific categories of administrative agencies (e.g., commanders of large army units, or heads of customs or state treasury administration).
I. Territorial Self-Government
Territorial self-government is a vital component of public administration. This exemplifies (ilustrować, dawać przykład) the idea of decentralized administration based on the self- sufficiency (samo wystarczalności) and relative autonomy of its units. Local government administration is structurally situated at all three territorial levels. Consequently, regions, districts and communes should be seen first as units of the country’s basic territorial structure, and only then as units of territorial self-government. Note that whereas communes and districts are units of local government, a region is the only structure that unites two parallel systems of administration, i.e., governmental and local (‘self-governed’). Situating the units of self-government at the respective levels of the country’s territorial structure does not, however, result in a vertical structure of self-government, because the units at a higher territorial level are not superior to those at the lower level.
The tasks and functions of local government administration are performed at all three territorial levels. However, the role of each level is different. First of all, one must distinguish between regional self-government with its statutory function of directing economic and social development of the region, and local self-government (communes or districts) responsible for fulfilling concrete public needs, maintaining the material, technical and infrastructural basis of a given area and taking care of mundane matters. Moreover, there is the differentiation of tasks and prerogatives within local self-government. This is based on the presumption, derived from the Constitution, that tasks and prerogatives belong to communes. Only when a commune is unable to execute them due to organizational, financial or personnel reasons or when the extent of a given problem exceeds its territory, should they be assumed by a district.
Understandably, commune and district self-government units perform tasks of a local nature. The direct addressees of their tasks are thus residents of a given community. These tasks refer mostly to the provision of basic services that every resident may legitimately expect to receive (e.g., education, healthcare, culture and services relating to access to the infrastructure such as local roads or water supply).
Self-government at the regional level is charged with tasks related to the economy, in particular economic and civic progress, which is to be achieved, i.a., through international cooperation, promotion of the region and zoning. Whereas the local level is focused on the needs of residents, the region’s focus is on the entrepreneur, because the region’s public authorities shall be deeply engaged in promoting its economic growth. Self-government at the regional level is also charged with the task of providing services that are regional in nature because their scale, costs and impact go well beyond a given locality. Examples of these are higher education, specialized medical care and some cultural institutions such as theaters and large museums. The most important element of the mission of regional self-government is the direct promotion and support of economic and civic progress through formulation and implementation of a region's strategy for multidirectional development Such an approach is in harmony with the provisions of the 1997 European Local Government Charter adopted of the Council of Europe.
The tasks of regional self-government aimed at creating the conditions and instruments for regional development pertain to three main areas: economic development, including international cooperation and promotion of the region; providing public services on a higher level and creating a clean and healthy natural environment. Therefore, regional self-government focuses more on promoting rather than performing and more on economic rather than administrative tasks. Furthermore, it attempts to implement its policies through negotiations and contracts rather than coercive administrative measures.
Self-government bodies act primarily through decisionmaking, controlling and executive-type organs. Note, however, that self-government authorities of every level include residents of a given territorial unit who, in addition, are able to express their preferences directly in elections or local referenda held on the commune, district and region levels.
Local councils constitute the organs of decisionmaking and oversight in communes and districts. A ‘quasi-parliament’ performs these functions on the regional level. The executive organs at the three levels are highly diversified and consist of boards chaired by presidents. The top representative of each of these boards, respectively, is a mayor for a commune board, a district head for a district board and a marshal for the board of a region. The position of the board presidents is of a high rank and the scope of their tasks and prerogatives is rather broad. In addition to directing and overseeing the activities of the collective executive organs, they are also charged with a number of other tasks. Although the organic statutes have not bestowed upon them the status of separate self- government organs, their legal status, in particular the nature of their prerogatives, indicates that they do possess the features of administrative organs.
The marshal organizes the work of his office as well as that of the region’s board, directs the region’s everyday affairs and also acts as its representative. In circumstances described by law, the marshal may undertake necessary actions that otherwise should be undertaken by the regional board. Finally, he heads his office, supervises the staff and monitors the activities of the heads of the region’s self-government organizational units.
The district head organizes the work of the district board, is in charge of the everyday affairs of the district and acts as its representative. He may undertake all necessary actions on matters requiring immediate attention, even though these actions would normally be undertaken by the district board. He is in charge of his office, supervises the staff and monitors the activities of the heads of various organizational units. Finally, consistent with the concept of integrated administration at the district level, the district head supervises district services, inspectorates and guards, even though these units are not part of his office and act on their own behalf.
The duties and prerogatives of the mayor are identical to those of the governor and the district head. Although the concept of integrated administration has not been applied at the commune level, in reality, some of the integrated administration’s features are easily noticeable. In particular, the mayor is the head of the commune office and supervises its staff.
The power of the self-government executive authority in a municipality (both rural and urban) is in the hands of a single official (a head of a commune, a mayor or a president of a city) elected by popular vote. Interestingly enough, the communal council has no power to dismiss its head before the expiration of his term of office. It is noteworthy that the commune’s head may only be dismissed by a referendum. This unusual arrangement enhances his authority to conduct the commune’s day-to-day activities such as issuing administrative decisions and supervising the employees of the commune’s organizational units, including communal enterprises, schools and other educational, cultural and service establishments.
The Prime Minister, as well as the respective governor, monitor the functioning of self-government at the three levels. The regional chamber of control supervises financial and budgetary activities. However, the supervisory bodies may intervene in the operation of self-government only in instances specified by law. The scope of their supervisory activities is limited to ensuring compliance with legal provisions.

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