Accepting a gift as a public servant carries inherent risks, including the potential for reciprocation or favoritism in return for the gift, which can harm the reputation of the public service. Moreover, the acceptance of a gift by a civil servant can be linked to a corruption scheme designed to conceal illicit income and legitimize it as a high-value gift.
The potential risks tied to public servants receiving gifts are addressed through legal regulations. In accordance with the Anti-Corruption Law, a public servant may not accept any gift or service that may affect the performance of his/her official duties.
Furthermore, the law establishes limitations on the value of gifts that public servants can accept. Specifically, the cumulative value of gifts received within a year should not exceed 15% of their annual official salary, and a single gift's value should not surpass 5%. These legal constraints also extend to the family members of the civil servant. For example, the combined total value of gifts received by each family member in a year should not exceed 1,000 GEL, and the value of an individual gift should not exceed 500 GEL. It's important to note that accepting a gift in violation of these legal provisions by a public official or an equivalent individual can result in criminal liability. However, under Georgian legislation, there is no provision for holding a family member of a civil servant accountable if they receive a gift that is prohibited by law.
The “Law of Georgia On the fight against corruption” outlines exceptions related to the acceptance of gifts by civil servants. According to this law, a gift received from a family member or a close relative is not categorized as a gift. This provision in the law raises concerns about the potential for public servants to legitimize illicit income through gifts from their family members or close relatives. In a recent instance, there have been considerable inquiries into the substantial monetary gifts received by the Prime Minister of Georgia from his parents, highlighting the need for scrutiny and transparency in such cases. For instance, based on the Prime Minister's declarations for the years 2021 and 2022, he disclosed receiving a monetary gift totaling 300 thousand GEL from his parents over this period. Additionally, this year, the Prime Minister utilized a government plane for personal travel, with the financial assistance from his parents cited as the funding source for this flight's expenses. While Georgian legislation does not explicitly prohibit the Prime Minister from accepting such cash gifts from his parents, it does prompt inquiries into the source of his parents' finances.
It should be noted that the resolution N200, dated April 20, 2017, issued by the Government of Georgia, lays down further regulations concerning the acceptance of gifts by civil servants within the context of official relationships. According to this resolution, a gift, souvenir, or any other symbolic token received from a domestic source for charitable purposes, such as for addressing sickness or assisting with natural disaster relief, will not compromise the official authority or actions of a civil servant.
Georgian legislation mandates transparency in the reporting of gifts received by officials. Specifically, officials are required to disclose information about gifts received by themselves and their family members in their property status declarations, especially if the value of these gifts exceeds 500 GEL.
As part of the current study, the Institute for Development of Freedom of Information (IDFI) examined the reported information on gifts received by officials and their family members from 2021 to 2023. According to the official property declaration procedure, declarations are meant to encompass information about gifts received in the previous year. Therefore, the data analyzed in this study pertains to gifts received by officials from 2020 to 2022. The research focused on reviewing the declarations of a significant portion of officials within the executive branch of Georgia, including the Government of Georgia, ministries, local self-governing bodies (LSGs), and other relevant entities.
- In the year 2020-2021, a total of 394 individuals within the executive branch or their family members received gifts with a cumulative value amounting to 27.8 million GEL.
- Between 2020 and 2022, public officials who submitted declarations received gifts totaling 18.6 million GEL, while their family members received gifts totaling 9.2 million GEL.
- Public officials received 90% of the gifts, amounting to 25.1 million, from their family and close relatives. An additional 8%, which equals 2.1 million, came from relatives whose gift-giving is restricted by law. The remaining 2%, totaling 0.6 million, were received from friends, colleagues, and other sources.
- Officials received gifts totaling 16.6 million GEL in cash, 9.1 million GEL in the form of real estate, and the remaining 2.1 million GEL in the form of cars or other valuable items.
- Among the executive authorities, the highest number of gifts were received by employees in law enforcement agencies and officials of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
- Within the executive branch, individuals who receive costly gifts frequently hold positions associated with a high risk of corruption. For instance, the Head of the Department of Quality Control and Construction Supervisor at the Ministry of Defense was gifted real estate valued at 200 thousand dollars from his father. Additionally, the wife of the Deputy Head of the Revenue Service was gifted real estate worth 450 thousand GEL by her parents, among others.
- The Prime Minister is ranked 18th in terms of the value of gifts received, with a total of 300 thousand GEL, among the officials within the executive branch.
- As part of the monitoring efforts, numerous suspicious cases involving officials allegedly receiving gifts in violation of the law have been uncovered. For instance, in 2022, Bakuri Giorgobian, the Deputy Head of one of the divisions within the Ministry of Internal Affairs, received a series of cash gifts from various sources. These included 24 cash gifts from his wife's aunt, totaling 14,690 USD and 410 EUR, 3,250 USD from his wife's aunt’s grandchild, 6,000 EUR from a wife’s friend, 8,450 GEL and 2,000 USD from his wife's mother, and 1,000 US dollars from other relatives of his spouse, in addition to 12,110 GEL and 403 US dollars from his own friends.
- Individual declarations made by officials often fail to provide precise information regarding the relationship between the recipient and the giver of the gift.
The findings from the scrutiny of officials' property declarations reveal that, during the period of 2020-2022, there were numerous instances where officials received gifts of substantial value. The circumstances outlined in the study, including the nature of the relationship between the official receiving the gift and the donor, the unclear source of the funds used for the gift, and other factors, cast doubts on the legality of several of these cases.
When it comes to regulating and enforcing the gift policy within the public service, a notable issue in Georgia lies in the inadequate regulations and unclear legislative records. For instance, while Georgian law does impose limitations on the acceptance of specific gifts by the family members of civil servants, it fails to establish appropriate measures of accountability for violations of these regulations.
Additionally, the determination of the legality of individual cases is further complicated by incomplete declarations submitted by officials. This lack of comprehensive information hinders the ability to discern the exact relationship between the gift giver and recipient.
IDFI believes that the prevalence of officials receiving gifts in recent years underscores the necessity for monitoring the legal constraints on gifting to public servants and enhancing their enforcement. Moreover, the factual situations outlined in the study serve as substantial grounds for scrutinizing the legality of gifts received by numerous officials and warrant further investigation.
- Urging the anti-corruption bureau to comprehensively investigate each suspicious case of officials receiving gifts within the framework of property declaration monitoring.
- Necessary revisions should be made to Georgian legislation to establish clear regulations governing the acceptance of gifts by the family members of public servants and to institute effective mechanisms for enforcing these rules.
- In the process of monitoring declarations, it is essential to clarify the declarations of all officials that do not allow for the precise identification of the relationship between the gift giver and the recipient. Additionally, it is advisable to introduce changes to the declaration-filling rules that would mandate officials to specify the exact date of receiving the gift in their declarations.
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