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Politically Motivated Replacements of Public Officials

mtavari 003Since October 1, 2012 Parliamentary Elections, 679 public servants were dismissed from local self-governmental bodies in Kakheti region.

Soon after the elections, process of replacement of senior officials started in the districts. District governors supporting the United National Movement (UNM) quitted positions one after another. Representatives of the Georgian Dream replaced them as interim officials. After leaders were changed, massive personnel changes affected even lower layers in the self-governmental institutions. Information Center of Kakheti observed many cases when people were compelled to write resignation letter by force and were fired from jobs illegally.

Unwritten Law

Telavi district governor Nugzar Khutsaidze wrote resignation letter on November 7, 2012. “There is no other option but coordinative cooperation with the central authority. We have problems with regard to the budget. The new government is eager to appoint their candidate to the position,” Nugzar Khutsaidze told ICK.

Without announcing vacancy competition, on November 12, head of Georgian Dream’s Telavi office Zurab Kurashvili was appointed to the position of the Telavi district interim governor.

„We selected the representative of the GD for the position because communication between the municipality and central authorities was poor. The municipality faced problems of transfers. Kurashvili will work on the restoration of this communication,” chairman of Telavi municipal board Dimitry Bochoidze clarified.

On November 10, every employee of the Telavi district administration was requested to write undated resignation letters.

„It is unwritten law. When leadership is changed, everybody writes resignation letters. Nobody was oppressed; the employees even asked me whether to indicate the date in their applications or not. I have not seen any application and do not pay attention to the dates. Too many people are working here and I am going to start reductions,” interim governor Zurab Kurashvili told ICK.

According to official data, from November 1, 2012 to January 3, 2013, 25 employees of the Telavi district administration were fired based on their personal applications.

In accordance to the Labor Code of Georgia, if an employee is initiator of canceling the labor contract, she/he does not receive the compensation – one month salary - fixed by Article 38 Part III of the Labor Code. People who resigned based on their personal applications could not receive compensations except Iashar Usupov.

„I was a chief specialist at the administrative service. Head of office Medea Kekelia asked us to write resignation applications according to the instructions of the governor. On November 21, I wrote an application to the interim governor and requested one-month holiday. The governor refused me to give a holiday and cancelled my labor contract which was due to expire on December 31, 2012. So, they paid me one month compensation,” said Iasahar Usupov.

On January 4, 30 more employees of the Telavi district administration were asked to write resignation letter. Assistant to the attorney of the Kurdgelauri village territorial entity Revaz Lobjanidze wrote in his application” “Mr. Zurab, in accordance to your instruction, I apply to you with the request to dismiss me from the occupied position.” The interim governor satisfied all 30 applications.

On January 21, Zurab Kurashvili fired specialist of the legal service Elene Berdzenishvili in the frame of personnel reduction. At that time Berdzenishvili was pregnant in her fourth month.

„In accordance to the Article 111 Paragraph II of the Labor Code of Georgia a servant (female) shall not be fired from job because of personnel changes, long-term disability to work or health problems, or negative results in tests when she is pregnant or has a child up to three years old.”

On January 28, Elene Berdzenishvili petitioned to the interim governor and requested restoration to the job. 19 days have passed but Berdzenishvili has not yet received a reply.

On January 16, 2013 ICK petitioned to the Telavi district administration and requested following public information: list of people who were appointed to different positions in the district administration since October 10, 2012, as well as information about their personality, education and working experience. In accordance to the Article 40 of the General Administrative Code of Georgia, the public agency is obliged to immediately release the requested information though the agency can take maximum 10 days for the collection of the requested information. Although the information requested by the ICK belonged to the category of to be immediately released and did not require 10-day time for collection, we have not received it even after one month.

According to verified information, activists of the Georgian Dream replaced fired employees of the district administration and no personnel reductions had taken place there. It is noteworthy that in the 2013 budget of the Telavi district, that is 8 400 100 lari, 1 317 100 lari was allocated for the salaries of the district administration’s personnel that is 331 500 lari more than it was last year. In 2012, only 985 500 lari was spent on the salaries of the district administration’s personnel.

Oppression on Public Servants

Chairman of Gurjaani municipal board Zakaria Iaganashvili and district governor Davit Meskhishvili resigned on November 19, 2012. Head of Gurjaani office of the Republic Party Zviad Kviralashvili said Zakaria Iaganashvili did not have right to continue working as a municipal board’s chairman because before elections he was head of Giorgi Gviniashvili’s election office, the majoritarian candidate of the UNM.

After a long controversy, member of the fraction Georgian Dream – Republicans Avtandil Zardiashvili was appointed to the position of the board chairman and Akaki (Joni) Osiashvili of the Georgian Dream became interim district governor.

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According to official information, from November 28, 2012 to January 14, 2013, 88 people were fired from Gurjaani district administration.

Several people confirmed with ICK that deputy district governor Zurab Danelishvili from the Georgian Dream requested them to write resignation letters.

Tengiz Menteshashvili, former attorney of Mukuzani territorial entity: „I was called from the district administration and told somebody wanted to meet me. Deputy Governors Kviralashvili and Danelishvili were talking with the attorneys of Kolagi and Gurjaani villages there. They said it was political issue, new government had come in office and new people had to come in the local authority. They suggested us to resign in sake of our future political activities. I wrote resignation application without date. During conversation Danelishvili was active. Everybody had to quit jobs. What do you think, did we all decide to resign on one day?“

Vladimer Mindorashvili, former attorney of Kolagi territorial entity: „They summoned me four or five times and requested to leave job. It was political decision. Head of office called me and said I had to meet Joni Osiashvili. Having arrived at the district governor’s office current attorney Giorgi Petriashvili was there; he was activist of the Georgian Dream and he was unemployed at that time. Joni Osiashvili said I had to resign. Then he had meeting with his activists, governors and deputy governors. Danelishvili said I had to quit. On January 12 I wrote an application without date.“

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On February 6, ICK managed to video-record how a public servant was psychologically oppressed by Gurjaani district deputy governor Zurab Danelishvili.

Nino Kakhaberi had worked at Chandari village territorial entity since 2007. During 2012 parliamentary elections, in accordance to the law, she was appointed to be a member of the commission at Kardenakhi village polling station # 32 by the DEC. Zurab Danelishvili alleges Nino Kakhaberi was carrying out political activities that was law violation.

Nino Kakhaberi, public servant – „You called me and I have come. Why are you calling me here all the time? Why are not you leaving me alone? I have been working since 2007; I have no relatives in the National Movement; I have never been their activist either but they employed me. Now, since I am not an activist of the Georgian Dream…

Zurab Danelishvili, deputy governor – you are not and we do not need you to be.

Nino Kakhaberi – I do not want it either….

Zurab Danelishvili – particularly when you are got used to the methods [of the UNM]. God will save us from using similar methods.

Nino Kakhaberi – You should not employ people in public services on political grounds.

Zurab Danelishvili – That is the point that you were employed on political grounds and acted according to your political affiliations.

Nino Kakhaberi- I was not employed because of my political affiliation; it is your opinion. You want it to be the truth. Prove that I made any mistake when acting as a commission member.

Zurab Danelishvili – it is not necessary at all to prove anything. When a public servant does something, his action has two sides – legal and moral. What you were doing it was law violation and you should be held responsible for it but corresponding agency shall investigate it. They should estimate the truth and charge you for the crime at the court.”

Zurab Danelishvili said he had talked with about 80 employees in this tone.

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In accordance to the Article 61 of the Law of Georgia on Public Service, “public servant shall not misuse his/her professional authority for party activities.”

Alongside that, the Law on Public Service clarifies basis for dismissing a person from public service (article 10) and it is inadmissible if the process has some connection with the person’s political or/and election activities.

Executive director of the Transparency International – Georgia Eka Gigauri believes that signs of criminal offense might be detected in the activities of the deputy governor in this particular case.

In accordance to the Article 333 of the Criminal Code of Georgia, abuse of professional power is punishable that caused essential violation of rights of a physical or legal person. In this case, a public servant is asking the employee to write an application on resignation that is beyond his professional power because he does not have similar authority. This action abuses the powers granted by the Law on Public Service. Besides that, as the video shows, the public servant persecuted the employee on the ground of his political activities that is also punishable under Article 156 Part II of the CCG,” Eka Gigauri said.

Vice-speaker of the Parliament of Georgia and a leader of the Georgian Dream Manana Kobakhidze made several statements on media that people shall not be employed or dismissed on political grounds.

The ongoing events in local self-governmental institutions were critically evaluated by international organizations. In its November 12, 2012 resolution “Future of Democracy in Eastern Neighborhood” the NATO’s Parliamentary Assembly expressed its concern about the oppression facts that had occurred in local self-governmental institutions.

On January 28, 2013 Monitoring Committee of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe published the monitoring document on the implementation of Georgia’s obligations as a member state. Two paragraphs were dedicated to the recent facts in the local self-governmental agencies in the document. It states that local senior officials, elected by the National Movement, were fired or resigned after the parliamentary elections and part of it happened as a result of oppression that is inadmissible for the democratic society. The document also underlines that regardless the fact whether the tendency is ruled by the government, the latter failed to combat this unpleasant practice.

The government did not respond to the oppression on public servants or on any fact of politically motivated dismissal.

Recruitment without Competition and Relatives on Senior Positions

Head of Public Service Bureau Irakli Kotetishvili said practice of recruiting new personnel through competition has been maximally reduced and people are frequently appointed to the positions as interim officials that does not require holding a competition.

After parliamentary elections, only Lagodekhi district governor was appointed to the position through competition in Kakheti region. 126 applications were submitted for the vacancy competition in Lagodekhi. However, everybody knew in advance that Valeri Alibegashvili was the winner.

In accordance to the Article 29 of the Law of Georgia on Public Service, a person can be appointed to the senior position in public agency as a result of competition… except the cases envisaged by Article 30. What is envisaged under Article 30? A) people to be selected or appointed by the president of Georgia, by the parliament of Georgia, by chairman of the parliament, by prime-minister of Georgia; b) servants to be elected by supreme council of Abkhazia or Adjara Autonomous republic; c) deputy ministers, assistants, advisors; d) people who are appointed to the positions as interim officials; e) temporarily appointed officials; f) interim officials on the positions where candidates shall be elected through competition can be appointed to the positions without competition.

In accordance to the same article, a person can be appointed to the position of interim senior official (head of department, etc) for no longer than 1 year; as for other positions – for no longer than 3 months. This norm was to go in force on January 1, 2013 but in accordance to the amendments passed by the Parliament of Georgia in December of 2012, the date was postponed till July 1, 2013.

„Competition is the best method for the state to hire competent professionals who can serve citizens at high standard. The competition is necessary to assist citizens to have belief that people are fairly selected in public agencies. An ugly practice of employing friends and relatives in the public agency shall finish once and for ever,” said Irakli Kotetishvili (source opendatablog).

Nepotism still remains a main factor in employment

Beka Baidauri was appointed to the position of Akhmeta district interim governor on November 19. He is a friend of majoritarian MP Zurab Zviadauri from the Georgian Dream. As soon as he occupied the position, he fired 42 public servants from the district administration. On December 4, Beka Baidauri appointed his sister-in-law Magda Lagazauri to be his assistant. Before that, on November 30 Berdia Zviadauri – Zurab Zviadauri’s cousin was appointed to the position of deputy district governor. On December 13, Merab Zviadauri, MP’s another cousin, became interim head of the supervision service at the district administration; Merab Zviadauri’s brother Imeda Zviadauri occupied the position of the interim head of the Fire Brigade and Rescue Team; wife of Berdia Zviadauri - Lela Akhmeteli became assistant to the chairman of Akhmeta municipal board.

According to official information, from October 10, 2012 to January 25 of 2013, there are 38 new employees at the Akhmeta district administration; ten of them do not have high education.

„I do not think it is a disaster when somebody knows a person, his professionalism, experience and trusts him to occupy certain position. However, I think it is better to announce competition and employee the best candidate. We should not forget Georgian character and do not expect that we will change this society in five minutes. Even twenty years are short to change it; nobody should expect miracles from me to start typically different life. Remember that it will not happen,” said Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili at the press-conference on February 5 in reply to a journalist’s question about nepotism.

„We are ordinary people and we can never turn into robots. We always have emotions. We can love and be friends,” said Ivanishvili.

Natia Danelishvili | Information Center of Kakheti 

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