Electronic Communication with Public Administration in the Time of COVID-19-Poland's Experience

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2021 Jan 14;18(2):685. doi: 10.3390/ijerph18020685.


The situation associated with the growing number of Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) infections forced ongoing monitoring of the epidemic situation, which entailed an introduction of a number of restrictions and solutions intended to isolate the infected persons on the one hand, and to minimize the risk of development of an epidemic in Poland on the other. Activity of the Polish legislator is also essential, which tried to introduce solutions that would correspond with current expectations and needs. Given the multiplicity of the introduced regulations, interpretation of provisions of statutes has not always been easy. In this paper, the author points to the issues of communication with a public authority by specific reflections on the principles of serving documents on beneficiaries of EU programs under which they were awarded funding for their implementation on the basis of EU regulations addressing the use of the European Regional Development Fund, the European Social Fund and the Cohesion Fund for programs implemented as part of the cohesion policy (Regulations of the European Parliament and of the Council (EU) of 17 December 2013: no. 1303/2013, no. 1301/2013, no. 1304/2013, no 1300/2013, and no. 1299/2013). The author focuses on the issues of communication with an authority in a situation where administrative proceedings are initiated against a beneficiary of EU funds, e.g., for returning the granted funding. The author points to the dynamics of the legislator's work in this respect by analyzing the rules for serving documents by a public authority on beneficiaries who are public entities and those who are not. The author's main research aim is to analyze existing provisions establishing the possibility of electronic communication with a public authority, and also to assess them critically due to the extraordinary situation caused by Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19). This is intended to verify the main research hypothesis focusing on the attempt to answer a question whether existing regulations, and those created at the time of the epidemic threat and the state of epidemic in Poland facilitate citizens' electronic communication with a public authority. The author aims to answer a question about whether the Polish legislator responds appropriately to the numerous emerging challenges associated with the pandemic and whether it created regulations that effectively ensure the possibility of continuity of contact with a public authority for citizens who are the beneficiaries of public funds. This analysis may contribute to the understanding of whether and how it is possible to improve citizens' contact with public authorities, which in the future may eliminate barriers and obstacles arising in this regard. The author bases her reflections on the experience resulting from providing legal services for one of the Polish Managing Authorities of the Regional Operational Programme using at the same time a number of research methods (i.e., the method of interpretation of applicable laws to establish applicable provisions of the law that regulate admissibility of electronic communication with a public authority and to establish efficiency of such communication, the analytical method, applied in reference to the relevant state of the art in the achievements of legal scholarship, and the empirical method, based on observation and analysis of practical issues resulting from the author's cooperation with a Polish managing authority). In her conclusions, the author points to the lack of introduction of comprehensive regulations (also at the EU level-for all EU Member States) in terms of de-formalizing the principles of communication in the course of pending administrative proceedings. The author notices an absence of unambiguous regulations that allow for a scanned document signed by hand and sent my email to be qualified into the category of documents served by electronic means, through use of means of electronic communication. The author assesses this absence negatively due to the fact that such action seems the simplest in a situation caused by COVID-19.

Keywords: administrative proceedings; electronic communication; public authority; serving documents.

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19*
  • Communication*
  • Financing, Government*
  • Humans
  • Internet*
  • Poland