Guidebook to the Public Benefit and Volunteer Work Act of law
Public benefit work
One of the crucial terms introduced by the public benefit and volunteer work Act of law is the „public benefit work”. The term is used for any activity for general public, in the area of public tasks, performed by non-governmental organizations, as well as religious unions and local authority associations. It should be noticed that the scope of public tasks includes e.g.:
Paid public benefit work
Public benefit work may take form of paid or unpaid activity. Paid public benefit work consists in operations within the framework of tasks considered public, as part of objectives pursued by organizations in their statutory business, for which remuneration is charged. Paid public benefit work consists also in sales of products or services offered by the organization. The provision is meant to guarantee the right to obtain profits by selling goods and services generated by the organization’s members. However, NGOs obtaining profits from the paid public benefit work shall not involve into the business operations related to the same type of work or services. Paid public benefit work – provided that they fit limits defined in the Act – shall not be subject to provisions of the Act of law on business activity.
Important provisions of the Act include also defining the „non-governmental organization” term. According to the Act, the term “NGO” applies not only to foundations and associations, traditionally representing the third sector, but also to all corporate and non-corporate entities not forming part of the public finances sector, not operating for profit, and formed against separate legal provisions. NGOs operating in the area of public tasks involve into the public benefit work. Provisions of the Act do not apply to: political parties, trade unions or employers’ organizations. The same concerns foundations formed by political parties, State Treasury or local authority associations, except for foundations engaging in academic research or scientific work.
Cooperation between the public administration and the third sector
The Act of law imposes on public administration facilities an obligation of implementation public tasks in cooperation with non-governmental organizations. The provision of greatest importance states that local authority units shall draft annual programs of cooperation with NGOs and other entities engaging into public benefit activities. Moreover, public administration units should consult project of regulations, form task forces and inform each other on planned activities. Implementation of these provisions should increase the effectiveness of collaboration between NGOs and public administration units.
Commissioning public tasks to non-governmental organizations
The most important element of cooperation between public administration units and NGOs consists in commissioning public tasks to organizations by virtue of open bid competition. The Act of law defines obligatory elements of the offer to be announced by administrative unit, competition procedure and obligatory elements of the agreement to be reached with a non-governmental organization. Public administration units were granted with the appropriate controlling powers towards institutions implementing commissioned public tasks.
Public Benefit Organizations
Provisions of the Act of law regulate forming public benefit organizations as a qualified type of the non-governmental organization. Obtaining the status results in e.g. waiver on the corporate income tax and the property tax. Public benefit organizations shall be also provided with the possibility of free-of-charge broadcasting time to inform on their activities by public media, and conscripts dispatched for substitute military services shall have the right to work for a public benefit organizations. Personal income taxpayers may donate 1% of the tax calculated to support individually selected public benefit organizations.
Obtaining the public benefit status shall result in the obligation of fulfilling certain criteria in relation to the area of activities engaged in by the organization as well as a number of additional conditions. Public benefit organizations shall furnish annual financial reports and narrative accounts on activities; these documents shall be available to all interested entities. A non-governmental organization shall gain the public benefit status as of data of entry proving conformity to appropriate requirements into the National Court Register.
Public Benefit Works Council
The Act assumes forming the Public benefit Works Council as counseling, analyst and assistant body to the minister responsible for social security issues. The Council shall issue opinions on matters concerning this Act of Law and on governmental draft laws in the field of public benefit and volunteer work. The Council shall have 20 members; correspondingly to certain tasks, it shall have the following membership: 10 representatives of public administration and 10 people representing NGOs and NGO unions and associations. The Council shall have a three-year term of office.
The Act of law includes provisions concerning legal status of volunteer work. Volunteers shall provide benefits to support non-governmental organizations in the field of public benefit and to support public administration facilities, with the exception of business operations they may engage in. According to the Act, the scope, manner and duration of providing benefits shall be defined jointly by the volunteer and the beneficiary in the appropriate agreement. The beneficiary shall be obliged to guarantee the appropriate personal safety measures determined by the type of benefits provided and related hazards. The beneficiary shall also notify the volunteer of any risk to health and safety stemming from the process of providing benefits, and on the rules of protection against occupational threats and hazards. The beneficiary may cover the costs of health insurance in case that the volunteer is not eligible for health care benefits by any other way.
Introduction of the Act
The Act of Law on introductory provisions of the public benefit and volunteer Act of law assumes that the Act comes into force from January 1, 2004, with exception of provisions related to forming the Public Benefit Council, volunteer work and some provisions concerning the obligation of cooperation between public administration facilities and non-governmental organizations, which came into force within 30 days after the date of announcement of the Act of law.