Watchdog Says Government Neglects Anti-Corruption Reforms

The Government of Georgia “has no interest in carrying out anti-corruption reforms,” said the Transparency International Georgia, a local watchdog, in a report evaluating the implementation of the country’s main anti-corruption law.

The report published on December 7 examines the effectiveness of the institutional mechanisms responsible for exposing violations of the Law on Conflict of Interest and Corruption in Public Institutions (CoI) in Georgian ministries over the course of five years from 2016 through 2020. In total, 12 institutions were investigated after Culture and Finance Ministries, did not respond to the organization’s Freedom of Information requests.

The watchdog found the CoI law violations are not being identified in practice and observed that in most cases the mechanisms necessary to fulfill the requirements laid out in the law are not in place at all.

TI Georgia observed that, between 2016 and 2020, only one case of CoI Law violation was recorded. The Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development dismissed one person for incompatibility of duties in 2017. 

“In 2016-2020, no violation of corruption-related offenses, conflict of interest in public institutions, and/or unexplained wealth was identified,” it said.

The study also stressed that the work of the Anti-Corruption Council – a body responsible for creating and overseeing the implementation of the country’s anti-corruption strategy – and with that development, implementation, and monitoring of the National Anti-corruption policy are suspended.

The watchdog noted that as of now, the Secretariat of the Anti-Corruption Council does not actually exist. Since March 2021 the government administration has been tasked to take over its duties, but the new body created under the administration – Anti-Corruption Secretariat has not yet been staffed.

With regards to asset declarations, TI Georgia noted that instead of identifying and preventing possible corruption-related offenses, its monitoring system is narrowly focused on checking whether the declared information is complete and correct. Some key officials, part of prosecutors, investigators of anti-corruption cases, and advisors to state-political officials are not required to submit the declarations. 

The watchdog also raised concerns regarding the lack of mechanisms for protecting whistleblowers, as there are no unified standards for identifying and responding to whistleblower statements and collecting relevant information. The existing relevant regulations, according to TI Georgia, do not apply to the Defense and Interior Ministries even though relevant regulations were supposed “to be developed as early as seven years ago.”

TI Georgia also highlighted that appropriate consideration is not given to restrictions on receiving gifts while the “flawed practice of disregarding public information requests has become a regular occurrence for public institutions.” 

The organization has issued several recommendations, including to establish an independent Anti-corruption Agency to combat systemic corruption. The relevant legislative package was initiated in the Parliament in September 2020, that is currently stalled.

The watchdog also called on the government to restore Anti-Corruption Council, and ensure the “meaningful participation of civil society organizations in its work.” It underlined the urgency of staffing the Anti-Corruption Secretariat and developing the National Anti-Corruption Strategy and its Action Plan.

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