“700,000 tulips bloomed this year on the territory of the Spivoche Pole (Singing Field) park!” — all the media of the Kyiv authorities burst with such headlines at the beginning of the May break. According to the news, the flower show was created by Zelenbud. The Pechersk landscape park, of which the singing field is a part, is also owned by the territorial community. But the entrance to the municipal territory where the city crew plant flowers is fee-paying, and the operator of this location is a private company (which charges money for entrance). So, we decided to find out how much a flower feast costs the budget and who earns money on it.
Kyiv residents are already used to traditional exhibitions of flowers and landscape design, which are arranged several times a year by city crew on the Spivoche Pole. This tradition was started under the leader of the KCSA Oleksandr Popov, in 2011. During these ten years, exhibitions have featured a wide variety of topics, the only thing remaining unchanged — all municipal enterprises on maintenance of green spaces of the city create their own unique objects, thus conducting a kind of review of the achievements of landscape gardening.
According to the order which regulates the organization of exhibitions, they are created at the expense of municipal institutions, sponsors, and investors. This is where the commercial component of the project begins, in which municipal investments give God knows whom and God knows what profits.
Now entrance fees to flower shows cost UAH 100 for adults (children under 5 years old, pensioners, and benefit holders are allowed free of charge). In good weather on weekends, the queue at the Spivoche Pole ticket offices stands a hundred meters away, the crowds of people among the flowers are impressive. For a paid entrance, a visitor may count on a cleaned territory, free restrooms, benches, and several recreation areas. Food zones and entertainment for children are, of course, to be paid for.
That is, the park is municipal, its main attraction — flower beds — is created by city crew, but the entrance is to be paid for. Last year, an analog of the Spivoche Pole appeared — Dobropark, a project of Ihor Dobrutskyi (originator of the main Christmas tree in Kyiv). In “Dobropark,” land, employees, and flowers — everything is private, and the price of visiting is similar — UAH 150. This indicates that, on the one hand, the business model works, on the other hand, if you invest one hundred percent from scratch, the price can only be 50% higher. The private model includes the cost of land, equipment, and electricity which are “free of charge” on the Spivoche Pole.
Classified (non-)budget facility
To find out how the flower exhibition created under the patronage of Kyivzelenbud works, we turned to this municipal association with a simple request — to provide information about the content of the cooperation agreement with a private company that is the operator of the Spivoche Pole. However, the result surprised us — the institution refused to send copies of documents regulating business relations with the park operator.
“No budget funds were involved in the creation of the exhibition, so, according to the law, we are not required to provide relevant information,” such was a general answer of Kyivzelenbud on requests from DOZORRO.
Then an interesting terminological discussion with the budget institution follows. Perhaps the ME really does not attract budget funds for the procurement for exhibition. But after all, absolutely all its components, except for service functions, were created using municipal property and by employees of the association of enterprises which the city had created. Don’t we, the community, have the right to receive a report?
Whose park it is?
Let us start with the property. Pechersk landscape park is on the balance sheet of the ME on maintenance of green spaces of the Pechersk district. It is serviced, including the territory around the stage of the Spivoche Pole, by this ME on maintenance of green spaces. This was reported to us by the head of the sector of this enterprise, Liudmyla Voronina. Even from the territory of the entire park which is cleaned the Spivoche Pole is not excluded. “As far as all the other matters are concerned, namely, who sells what on the territory there, questions should be directed to Zelenbud,” she said.
The balance holder at one time put up a fence around the territory of the Spivoche Pole— “to preserve flower arrangements,” although the closure of part of the territory of the Pechersk landscape park blocked some of the through walking routes that connect the lower part of the park, the territory of the WWII Museum, and other parts of the park.
The Charter of the Municipal Association states that Kyivzelenbud may lease or use the property assigned to it free of charge only with the consent of the owner or the body authorized by them (article 5.5). That is, there should be consent to the use of the park’s property from the owner (community) or the body authorized by them (Kyiv City Council), not to mention free access to these documents.
Whose flowers are these?
We also calculated how much the flower part of the exhibition at the Spivoche Pole costs. For example, a few years ago, procurement for the creation of a tulip exhibition in Prozorro in general were signed in this way. According to the electronic system data, in 2015, each ME on maintenance of green spaces announced the procurement of tulip bulbs in the amount of approximately UAH 200,000. At that time, not all tenders were held, but the total expected cost of the announced ones was more than UAH 2 mln (10 districts).
According to the data that we received from all MEs on maintenance of green spaces about the preparations for the 2021 tulip exhibition, gardeners planted from 13 to 25,000 flowers from each district, a total of 163,000 bulbs of tulips and other flowers.
Some MEs on maintenance of green spaces in their responses stressed that budget funds were not used. (Holosiivskyi, Pecherskyi, Podilskyi districts). Others did not mention this point.
If to view last year’s procurement of ME on maintenance of green spaces last year (and seed material is usually bought for a season in advance), it can be seen that the average price of one tulip bulb is about 8 UAH/piece. That is, the total cost of bulbs alone for the creation of this year’s tulip exhibition is UAH 1.3 mln.
It’s actually impossible to check whether it is “budget” bulbs that are planted on the Spivoche Pole or those purchased at the company’s own expense. It is only known for sure that for the needs of the districts MEs on maintenance of green spaces also buy seed material and plant it in their parks, where Kyiv residents can enjoy flowers for free.
What about the operator?
The operator of flower exhibitions and the Spivoche Pole, according to information on its FB page, is the Grand Event company. However, in fact, the official website of the Spivoche Pole offers to conclude contracts for commercial cooperation on the territory of the park with individual entrepreneur Pohorielko D. A. Denys Pohorielko is really the “face” of the Spivoche Pole’s operator — he, together with the head of Kyivzelenbud, represents the events of the exhibition in the media and at events. And he is also the founder of the Grand Event LLC.
The company informed us that they had been operating the park for more than two years. Moreover, according to them, it is they who buy and plant flowers for exhibitions at their own expense. This looks a little strange, since MEs on maintenance of green spaces often put up their compositions in social networks, advertising their own achievements.
According to the official page of the Spivoche Pole, other events (concerts, festivals) will also be held here between flower exhibitions. Of course, with fee-paying entrance. The park is also used for holding fashion shows, shooting ads, and so on.
So, on the one hand, we have a very well-known location — the Spivoche Pole — which is well-developed, eventful and attracting visitors, creating convenient services there (food courts, entertainment, souvenir sales). On the other hand, there is also an opaque budget component of this development. The park is in municipal ownership, its functioning (including capital investments, repairs, energy supply, maintenance of the territory’s condition outside the season) is provided by a municipal institution. But Zelenbud itself, for some reason, categorically refuses to give a report on a number of important issues: the conditions for choosing a park operator, the terms of cooperation, and the distribution of profits.
Faced with an impenetrable wall in information interaction with MA Kyivzelenbud regarding the work of exhibitions and commercial use of the Spivoche Pole, we turned for explanations of this situation to the relevant department of the KCSA, to which Kyivzelenbud is subordinate. The head of the Department of Ecology and Natural Resources of the KCSA, Oleksandr Voznyi, could not provide an answer regarding the economic relations related to the management of the Spivoche Pole park. He refers to the fact that he has been holding the position for a small period of time and has not yet had time to deal with this issue (Oleksandr Voznyi headed the Department on February 11 of this year). He promised to give us an explanation later.
We have also sent a request for access to public information from Transparency International Ukraine. However, the answer of Kyivzelenbud is the same — they refuse to provide information.
As representatives of the community at whose expense Zelenbud operates, we welcome the commercial aspirations of this enterprise and the (possible) income from the creation of the exhibition and the lease of municipal property. However, as representatives of the same community that owns this property, we demand transparency in the mechanisms of its use and reporting on the economic efficiency of the “closed and fee-paying Spivoche Pole project.”