What is the NCR&D scandal about? Huge grants for suspicious firms

Share

Journalist at OKO.press.

More

The National Centre for Research and Development is distributing grants which are to contribute to the ‘Poland’s civilizational development’. The prosecutor’s office and the Anti-Corruption Bureau are currently investigating two grants from last year’s NCR&D tender amounting to a total of almost PLN 178 million.



‘The Central Anti-Corruption Bureau (CAB) started an investigation at the National Centre for Research and Development (NCR&D) on 22 February 2023. The Centre’s management guaranteed full cooperation with the CAB. The NCR&D is not currently providing any more information in the interests of the investigation,’ reads a laconic communication posted on the NCR&D’s website.

 

The NCR&D is a government executive agency under the Ministry of Development Funds and Regional Policy. It is supposed to be a ‘key centre for supporting and creating innovative technological and social solutions’. The NCR&D’s main task is to distribute public money for projects which are to contribute to the ‘civilizational development of the country’. This applies to huge amounts of money:

 

in 2021, the Centre distributed more than PLN 5.8 billion, of which the vast majority were funds transferred to Poland from the European Union’s budget.

 

One of the largest tenders for EU co-financing managed by the NCR&D is ‘Fast Track – Digital Innovations’. Grants totalling over PLN 801 million were awarded from it in 2022. And it is precisely this tender – following information disclosed by the media – that has become the focus of interest of the CAB and the prosecution service, as well as the Supreme Audit Office.

 

We are summarizing what is known so far about the suspicious multi-million NCR&D grants.

 

55 million for a 26-year-old

 

It all started with almost 55 million zlotys to be received by Postquant in the ‘Fast Track’ programme (the contract has not yet been signed) for a project entitled ‘IOT solution for tracking goods in the supply chain and monitoring their transport parameters’.

 

Radio Zet journalists Mariusz Gierszewski and Radosław Gruca revealed that Postquant sp. z o.o. had been registered in Gdańsk ten days before the deadline for submitting bids in the tender. It was established by Kacper Wiśniewski, then aged 26. The newly established company’s share capital was PLN 5,000.

 

Wiśniewski’s application received the lowest score qualifying the project for co-financing – 10 out of 16 points – but, even so, the grant awarded to him was one of the highest.

 

It was possible to receive an average of PLN 5.5 million in last year’s ‘Fast Track’.

 

The rules of the tender were modified in the meantime: the deadline for the submission of tenders was extended from 4 pm to 11.59 pm on 4 November 2022, and then the pool of funds was increased even further (the initial tender was to be for PLN 660 million). The NCR&D admitted that Postquant sp. z o.o.’s application was submitted within the extended deadline. But it refused to give the press access to the content of the application.

 

Civic Coalition MPs Dariusz Joński and Michał Szczerba, who conducted an audit at the NCR&D found out the details. They revealed that Kacper Wiśniewski worked and works as a bartender. And that he submitted his application several dozen minutes before the tender closed: at 11.22 pm. According to Joński and Szczerba, the recently established Postquant has no chance of raising the PLN 17 million contribution needed for implementing the project for which the application was filed. They also questioned the ‘innovativeness’ of Wiśniewski’s idea.

 

‘He submitted an application for monitoring the continuity of the supply chain through location sensors. Every logistics company has such a system. There are plenty of companies that sell such programs, which are extended and much more modern. This is no innovation, whereas this money was supposed to be used for innovations,’ emphasized Joński.

 

Accidental coincidence of addresses 

 

Nobody has managed to contact Kacper Wiśniewski so far. The Tri-City ‘Gazeta Wyborcza’ revealed that the man gave the town of Kosów Lacki in the Sokołowski County (Mazowieckie Voivodship) as his place of residence in the documents at the registry court. The journalist also found information about the companies that Wiśniewski had already established at the beginning of 2022. They are:

 

  • Xeres Alternatywna Spółka Inwestycyjna with capital of PLN 100,000 (registered by the PFSA on the list of entities entitled to conduct investment activities) 
  • and D4B, where Wiśniewski’s partner is Adam Mielnicki, a KORWiN party activist in the past, among others, who is currently a member of the audit committee of the Radon Association, which is promoting ‘easier access to firearms for citizens’.

 

MPs from Adam Bielan’s Republican Party filed a bill with the Sejm in April 2022 on the easing of restrictions on access to firearms in Poland. However, nothing is known about any possible cooperation between the Republicans and the Radon Association. When questioned by the journalists from ‘Wyborcza’, Adam Mielnicki said that his activities in the association and his business acquaintanceship with Kacper Wiśniewski are separate topics.

 

But the story about the NCR&D and Wiśniewski’s company points more to the Republican Party. ‘Wirtualna Polska’ wrote that Postquant’s headquarters – a virtual office in an office building on ul. Heweliusza in Gdańsk – has the same address as the party’s former headquarters. A press officer of the Republicans said this was a coincidence.

 

The NCR&D has officially been subordinated to Deputy Minister Jacek Żalek precisely from the Republican Party (formerly in Jarosław Gowin’s Porozumienie [Agreement party]) since August 2022. According to ‘Newsweek’, Paweł Kuch, until recently acting director of the NCR&D, is also Adam Bielan’s man. However, Bielan’s former assistant, Ignacy Bobruk, became Kuch’s adviser, for a not inconsiderable salary: PLN 24,000 per month.

 

123 million for brother-in-law’s colleague

 

The largest grant of almost 123 million from the ‘Fast Track’ tender is to be awarded to Chime Networks from Białystok, a subsidiary of TB Telecom sp. z o.o., established in the summer of 2020. Its grant application was for the development of ‘cyber-security solutions for undersea fibre optic infrastructure based on innovative multi-core fibre technology and ultra-sensitive threat detection and identification systems’.

 

As Radio Zet journalists revealed, Piotr Maziewski is the largest shareholder in Chime Networks and a member of the management board of TB Telecom. According to the National Court Register, he is also a member of the audit committee of the Bialystok-based Catholic Academic Youth Association.

 

The vice-president of this association is the brother of Deputy Minister Żalek’s wife. Whereas its president is Dr Hab. Karol Kramkowski, a member of the NCR&D council.

 

The Council is an advisory body; it speaks up, among other things, on matters regarding the terms and conditions of tenders and has a decisive say in the establishment of the membership of the NCR&D’s teams of experts and the management of the Centre’s assets. Kramkowski has also been a member of the NCR&D appeal committee since January 2023, and has also been made the chairman of the committee which is to handle the recruitment for the post of director of the NCR&D.

 

In response to the questions from the journalists, Jacek Żalek stated that he sees no conflict of interest in this. He pointed out that the Catholic Academic Youth Association (SKMA) has not been active for years and he does not know what his wife’s brother does. SKMA was established in 2006, and there have been no new entries on it in the National Court Register since then.

 

However, ‘Gazeta Wyborcza’ revealed Piotr Maziewski’s (from Chime Networks) and Karol Kramkowski’s (from the NCR&D council) connections with a Białystok businessman and social activist, Paweł B., who is suspected of embezzling millions from EU grants, and is an acquaintance of Jacek Żalek.

 

MPs Joński and Szczerba emphasize that Chime Networks is a company on the verge of bankruptcy. ‘The maximum loan it can obtain on the market is PLN 750. The state is transferring 123 million to a company that is only able to obtain such a loan’ commented Szczerba.

 

Audit, audit, audit

 

As a consequence of the information revealed, Deputy Minister Jacek Żalek was deprived of the authority to supervise the NCR&D, and Hanna Strykowska, who is associated with him, lost her position, having just been made deputy director of the Centre in November 2022.

 

As ‘Rzeczpospolita’ wrote, Paweł Kuch also ceased to be acting director in the middle of February. The media connected his departure with the ‘Fast Track’ tender scandal, which Kuch himself clearly denied. He explained that his period of appointment had simply ended. Kuch, who had been appointed acting director six months earlier, had reported the possible commitment of a crime in the distribution of NCR&D grants.

 

An investigation is in progress as of 20 February into two grants, which the prosecution service has entrusted to the Central Anti-Corruption Bureau.

 

According to ‘Rzeczpospolita’s’ findings, officers have already questioned Deputy Minister Żalek and have searched the NCR&D office. Proceedings were initiated under Article 231 para. 2 of the Penal Code, i.e. abuse of power for the purpose of achieving financial or personal gain. This is punishable by imprisonment for between one and ten years.

 

On 9 February 2023, Jacek Orzeł, who had been director of the Office of Security Policy at the Ministry of Development Funds and Regional Policy for several years and had previously worked at the Ministry of Development and the Central Statistical Office, among others, was made acting director of the NCR&D. Minister Puda instructed the new director to perform an internal audit of the institution encompassing the ‘Fast Track’ tender, but not only.

 

The President of the Supreme Audit Office, Marian Banaś has announced an audit of the tender. Dariusz Joński and Michał Szczerba also intend to report the matter to the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF), which investigates cases of fraud in the spending of EU funds. According to MPs, there may be more cases of suspicious grants. They are demanding the invalidation of the whole of the tender.

 

Translated by Roman Wojtasz 

 

The article was published in Polish in OKO.press February 28, 2023.



Author


Journalist at OKO.press.


More

Published

March 6, 2023

Tags

Supreme CourtConstitutional TribunalDisciplinary ChamberPolandjudgesdisciplinary proceedingsrule of lawZbigniew ZiobroNational Council of the JudiciaryCourt of Justice of the EUjudicial independenceEuropean CommissionEuropean UnionAndrzej DudaMałgorzata ManowskaCourt of JusticeEuropean Court of Human RightsMinister of JusticeIgor Tuleyadisciplinary systemAdam Bodnarmuzzle lawJarosław KaczyńskiNational Recovery PlanCJEUMateusz MorawieckiCommissioner for Human Rightsneo-judgesCourt of Justice of the European UniondemocracyPrzemysław RadzikWaldemar ŻurekNational Council for Judiciarypresidential electionselectionselections 2023disciplinary commissionercriminal lawJulia PrzyłębskaPiotr SchabKamil Zaradkiewiczmedia freedomharassmentpreliminary rulingsHungarySupreme Administrative Courtelections 2020K 3/21Dagmara Pawełczyk-WoickajudiciaryFirst President of the Supreme CourtŁukasz PiebiakprosecutorsPresidentRecovery FundBeata MorawiecPaweł JuszczyszynProsecutor GeneralMichał Lasotafreedom of expressionMaciej NawackiEuropean Arrest WarrantSejmprosecutionCOVID-19Regional Court in KrakówCriminal ChamberNational ProsecutorConstitutionPrime MinisterMinistry of JusticecourtsMałgorzata GersdorfMarek SafjanEU budgetdisciplinary liability for judgesMaciej FerekOSCEWojciech HermelińskiExtraordinary Control and Public Affairs ChamberIustitiacriminal proceedingsWłodzimierz WróbelVenice Commissionconditionality mechanismAleksander StepkowskiTHEMISLabour and Social Security ChamberStanisław BiernatPiScommission on Russian influenceStanisław PiotrowiczPresident of the Republic of PolandNCJimmunityconditionalityAnna DalkowskaJustice FundcorruptionLaw and JusticeNational Public ProsecutorCouncil of Europefreedom of assemblyKrystian MarkiewiczreformsReczkowicz and Others v. PolandKrzysztof Parchimowiczacting first president of the Supreme Court2017policeSenateAndrzej Zollmedia independenceSLAPPdefamationStrategic Lawsuits Against Public ParticipationLGBTJustice Defence Committee – KOSEwa ŁętowskaDidier ReyndersFreedom HouseAmsterdam District CourtMay 10 2020 electionsXero Flor w Polsce Sp. z o.o. v. PolandOrdo IurisPresident of PolandAndrzej StępkaBroda and Bojara v PolandSylwia Gregorczyk-AbramPiotr GąciarekJarosław WyrembakPM Mateusz MorawieckiArticle 7Next Generation EUConstitutional Tribunal PresidentUrsula von der LeyenLex DudaTVPmediaLex Super OmniaProfessional Liability ChamberreformJarosław DudziczK 7/21National Reconstruction PlansuspensionparliamentChamber of Professional LiabilityEAWArticle 6 ECHRP 7/20Supreme Court PresidentLech GarlickiMichał WawrykiewiczabortionPiotr PrusinowskiNational Electoral Commissionelectoral codeJanusz NiemcewiczTeresa Dębowska-RomanowskaStanisław RymarMałgorzata Pyziak- SzafnickaKazimierz DziałochaBogdan ŚwięczkowskiNetherlandsAndrzej MączyńskiMarek MazurkiewiczvetoStefan JaworskiMirosław GranatOLAFBiruta Lewaszkiewicz-PetrykowskaViktor OrbanJózef IwulskiMaciej MiteraSLAPPsjudcial independenceWojciech ŁączkowskiAdam JamrózPATFoxFerdynand RymarzKonrad WytrykowskiRafał Puchalskismear campaignmilestonesKrakówMarzanna Piekarska-Drążekstate of emergencyUkraineelectoral processBelaruscourt presidentsAdam SynakiewiczXero Flor v. PolandAstradsson v Icelandright to fair trialEdyta BarańskaJoanna Hetnarowicz-SikoraCentral Anti-Corruption BureauJakub IwaniecsurveillancePegasusDariusz DrajewiczJoanna Misztal-KoneckaCivil ChamberK 6/21Wojciech MaczugaSzymon Szynkowski vel SękDariusz ZawistowskiOKO.presselections integrityelections fairnessMarek ZubikBohdan ZdziennickiMirosław WyrzykowskiSławomira Wronkowska-JaśkiewiczPiotr TulejaJerzy StępieńAndrzej RzeplińskitransparencyMariusz KamińskiMaciej Taborowskiinsulting religious feelingsPaweł Filipekpublic mediaMariusz MuszyńskiKrystyna PawłowiczlexTuskcourt changesMarek PietruszyńskiMichał LaskowskiSupreme Audit Officeabuse of state resourcesLaw on the NCJEuropean ParliamentJarosław GowincoronavirusRussiaZuzanna Rudzińska-BluszczFree Courts11 January March in WarsawCCBEPiebiak gatehuman rightsrecommendationC-791/19Human Rights CommissionerMarcin WarchołLGBT ideology free zonesreportEuropean Association of JudgesPiotr Pszczółkowskiretirement agedecommunizationGeneral Assembly of the Supreme Court Judgesintimidation of dissentersdemocratic backslidingpublic opinion pollZiobroEU law primacyMarian BanaśThe Council of Bars and Law Societies of Europecriminal codeBelgiumlex NGOEwa Wrzosekcivil societytransferAdam Tomczyńskimedia pluralismBohdan Bieniek#RecoveryFilesFrans TimmermansLIBE Committeerepairing the rule of lawUS Department of StateMarcin KrajewskiKarolina Miklaszewska2018NGOFull-Scale Election Observation MissionODIHRNations in TransitStanisław ZabłockiPetros TovmasyanJerzy KwaśniewskiPiotr MazurekGrzegorz PudaNational Recovery Plan Monitoring CommitteeWiesław KozielewiczChamber of Extraordinary Control and Public AffairsMałgorzata Dobiecka-WoźniakCouncil of the EURafał LisakMichał DworczykWojciech Sadurskidefamatory statementsRome StatuteInternational Criminal CourtC-619/18Rights and Values Programmejudgepress releaseAntykastalex WoślegislationCourt of Appeal in KrakówPutinismKaczyńskiPaulina AslanowiczJarosław MatrasMałgorzata Wąsek-Wiaderekct on the Protection of the PopulatioWorld Justice Project awardStanisław ZdunIrena BochniakKrystyna Morawa-FryźlewiczŁukasz BilińskiIvan MischenkoJoanna Kołodziej-MichałowiczMonika FrąckowiakArkadiusz CichockiEmilia SzmydtTomasz SzmydtE-mail scandalAndrzej SkowronKasta/AntykastaKatarzyna Chmuraadvocate generalGrzegorz FurmankiewiczMarek JaskulskiEwa ŁąpińskaZbigniew ŁupinaPaweł StyrnaSwieczkowskiDworczyk leaksMałgorzata FroncHater ScandalAleksandra RutkowskaGeneral Court of the EUArkadiusz RadwanLech WałęsaWałęsa v. Polandright to an independent and impartial tribunal established by lawpilot-judgmentDonald Tusk governmentRafał WojciechowskiDobrochna Bach-Goleckalex RaczkowskiPiotr Raczkowskithe Spy ActdisinformationCT Presidentfundamental rightsNational Broadcasting Councilelection fairnessequal treatmentcivil lawMarcin MatczakDariusz KornelukNational School of Judiciary and Public Prosecution (KSSiP)codification commissiondelegationsWatchdog PolskaDariusz BarskiLasotapopulismState TribunalRadosław BaszukAction PlanJustice MinistryVěra JourováDonald Tuskjustice system reformAnti-SLAPP Directiveinsultgag lawsuitsstrategic investmentinvestmentlustrationJakub KwiecińskidiscriminationAct on the Supreme Courtelectoral commissionsEuropean Court of HuKrzysztof RączkaPoznańTomasz Koszewskitest of independenceSebastian MazurekElżbieta Jabłońska-MalikJoanna Scheuring-WielgusoppositionThe National Centre for Research and DevelopmentAdam Gendźwiłłtransitional justiceDariusz DończykKoan LenaertsKarol WeitzZbigniew KapińskiAnna GłowackaCourt of Appeal in WarsawOsiatyński'a ArchiveEUUS State DepartmentAssessment Actenvironmentextraordinary commissionWhite PaperKaspryszyn v PolandNCR&DNCBiREuropean Anti-Fraud Office OLAFJustyna WydrzyńskaAgnieszka Brygidyr-DoroszJoanna KnobelCrimes of espionageJędrzej Dessoulavy-ŚliwińskiMarek Piertuszyńskihate speechhate crimesmedia taxadvertising taxmediabezwyboruJacek KurskiKESMAIndex.huGrzęda v PolandŻurek v PolandPrzemysław CzarnekJacek CzaputowiczMarcin RomanowskiElżbieta KarskaPrzemysła Radzikmedia lawRafał TrzaskowskiSobczyńska and Others v PolandTelex.huJelenForum shoppingFirst President of the Suprme CourtEuropean Economic and Social CommitteeSebastian KaletaOrganization of Security and Co-operation in EuropeC-156/21C-157/21foreign agents lawArticle 2Rome IIJózsef SzájerChamber of Extraordinary VerificationKlubrádióequalityGazeta WyborczaLGBT free zonesPollitykaBrussels Ilegislative practiceENAZbigniew BoniekAK judgmentautocratizationMultiannual Financial FrameworkOpenbaar MinisterieRegional Court in Amsterdamabortion rulingArticle 10 ECHRprotestsinterim measuresLeszek MazurIrena MajcherAmsterdamLMmutual trustthe Regional Court in Warsawpublic broadcasterUnited NationsForum Współpracy Sędziówthe NetherlandsDenmarkact on misdemeanoursCivil Service ActParliamentary Assembly of the Council of EuropeNorwegian Ministry of Foreign AffairsNorwegian fundsNorwayKraśnikOmbudsmanKarlsruheAusl 301 AR 104/19SwedenFinlandMariusz KrasońC-487/19GermanyCelmerC354/20 PPUC412/20 PPUIrelandMarek AstLSOright to protestSławomir JęksaWiktor JoachimkowskiRoman Giertychtrans-Atlantic valuesMichał WośMinistry of FinancelawyersMirosław Wróblewskirepressive actborderprimacyEU treatiesAgnieszka Niklas-BibikSłupsk Regional CourtMaciej RutkiewiczAct of 20 December 2019Amnesty InternationalJacek SasinEvgeni TanchevKochenovPechPaulina Kieszkowska-KnapikMaria Ejchart-DuboisAgreement for the Rule of LawPorozumienie dla PraworządnościAct sanitising the judiciaryFreedom in the WorldECJErnest BejdaThe First President of the Supreme CourtMaciej CzajkaMariusz JałoszewskiŁukasz RadkepolexitFrackowiakDolińska-Ficek and Ozimek v PolandRzeszówKoen LenaertsharrassmentOlimpia Barańska-Małuszeinfringment actionHudocPKWKonrad SzymańskiPiotr BogdanowiczPiotr BurasLeon KieresIpsosEU valuesNational Prosecutor’s OfficeBogdan ŚwiączkowskiDisicplinary ChamberTribunal of StateOlsztyn courtPrzemysła CzarnekEducation MinisterENCJauthoritarian equilibriumArticle 258postal voteTVNjournalistslexTVNEwa MaciejewskaGerard BirgfellerPolish mediaAlina CzubieniakSimpson judgmentpostal vote billclientelismoligarchic systemEuropean Public Prosecutor's Officeresolution of 23 January 2020Polish National FoundationLux VeritatisMałgorzata BednarekPiotr WawrzykIsrael