Transparency Int’l Georgia Assesses Parliament’s 10th Convocation

Transparency International – Georgia, a watchdog, released a report on July 26 regarding activities carried out by the 10th convocation of Parliament in its first year of session. The report covers the period from December 11, 2020, to December 31, 2021.

The report says the legislative body was unable to exercise effective parliamentary control in moments of crisis. It also notes, that largely due to their boycott, the opposition was not fully involved in parliamentary activities.

Importantly, according to this study, the Parliament did not carry out any significant reforms, including in reference to the commitments about the redistribution of power in Parliament as outlined by the EU-brokered April 19 agreement.

Below are the additional findings noted by TI – Georgia on the activities of the 10th convocation of parliament:

Deputies’ Activity

According to TI-Georgia, 53 deputies out of the 150 total did not use their right to initiate legislation. Additionally, 21 deputies did not speak at all, with ten out of them being from the ruling Georgian Dream party and eleven representing the opposition. The most active groups in Parliament were the Legal Issues Committee and the Human Rights and Civil Integration Committee, while the Diaspora and Caucasus Issues Committee were the least active.

Per the CSO, a total of GEL 766,860 (USD 260,836) was spent on trips abroad by members of Parliament while a total of GEL 1,105,617 (USD 376,060) was withheld from the salaries of 59 MPs due to disciplinary responsibility.

Important Legislative Changes

The report negatively assessed changes made to the election procedure for the Central Election Commission (CEC) chairman and members, along with abolishing the state inspector’s service, amendments to the Law on Common Courts, and the strengthening of punishment for disobeying law enforcement.

The organization positively assessed changes that increased the number of votes necessary to limit MPs’ immunity, granted the status of a faction to a political group created by at least 2 members, except for the rights defined for a faction by the Georgian Constitution, and required deputy chairmen of local councils to declare potential conflicts of interest.

TI-Georgia positively evaluated the expansion of protection mechanisms for minors in the justice system and some changes to electoral legislation but emphasized that both need additional work.

Legislative Process

The report drew attention to the practice of reviewing draft laws through an accelerated procedure and stated that the Parliament adopted 95 laws in this manner.

That being the case, some of the legislation is reviewed with significant delays. “Regarding 46 legislative packages (242 draft laws), the deadline was extended 94 times; the review period was extended the most (5 times) for amendments to the Electoral Code and the Enforcement Code,” it added.

Per the organization, the timely implementation of adopted laws was problematic. In total, implementation time was postponed for 22 draft laws, among them was the implementation of separate norms of the Law on Civil Service five times.

In addition, out of the 122 legislative proposals submitted to Parliament, the Committees also approved those that “hinder the country’s democratic development and whose authors are distinguished by radical rhetoric towards liberal groups.”

TI-Georgia underscored that members of civil society and experts were not involved in the process of considering bills important to the country. Furthermore, the package of amendments on the creation of an anti-corruption agency, as well as amendments to the law on “Freedom of Information” and “On Personal Data Protection” was suspended without any argumentation or discussion.

Parliamentary Control, Accountability, and Openness

The organization stated that members of the government and other officials accountable to the Parliament did not take proper responsibility for implementing Parliamentary control. For instance, they did not answer 256 questions asked by deputies. In twelve cases, accountable persons summoned by the opposition did not come to the hearings. Finally, ten out of the 21 reports submitted to Parliament are still pending review.

“Parliamentary control over the security sector remained weak and ineffective; the ‘group of trust’ [a cross-party body foreseen to review confidential information –] could not be fully established with the opposition refusing to participate in its activities,” the report stated. It also emphasized that the Council of Ethics has not been fully established either.

The report also drew attention to the obstacles encountered by media and civil society representatives when trying to enter Parliament.

In the form of its recommendation, TI-Georgia called on political parties to fulfill their obligations as outlined in the April 19 agreement and stressed the importance of all elected opposition parties taking part in parliamentary processes.

Read the full report here.

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