Gifts received by public officials of municipalities

News | FIGHTING CORRUPTION | Article | LOCAL GOVERNMENT 14 December 2023

Introduction

 

Following the monitoring of the gifts received by public officials of the executive branch and judges in 2020-2022, IDFI studied information regarding the gifts listed in the declarations by municipal public officials. According to the Law of Georgia “On Fighting Corruption”, municipal public officials are: the mayor of the municipality, their first deputy and deputy, the head of the primary structural unit, the chairman of the municipal assembly, their first deputy and deputy, the chairman of the commission of the municipality assembly, the chairman of the faction of the municipality council and their deputy, the district governor of the city of the Tbilisi municipality and their deputy, the head of the primary structural unit of the district. Accordingly, all restrictions on receiving gifts outlined in the Law of Georgia “On Fighting Corruption” applies to these public officials and members of their families. 

 

Specifically, municipal public officials are prohibited from receiving gifts or services that may influence the performance of their official duties. The total value of the gifts received during a given year cannot exceed 15% of their annual salary, and the value of one-time gifts cannot exceed 5% of this value. The total value of gifts received by members of their families cannot be over 1,000 lari, while the value of one-time gifts cannot be more than 500 lari. The Law “On Fighting Corruption” provides certain exceptions regarding gifts received by public officials. Among these, for the purposes of the law, gifts received from members of family or close relatives are not considered. Acceptance of a gift prohibited by law by a public official or a person equal to them in standing entails criminal liability. However, the Georgian legislation does not prescribe a specific liability for family members of public officials who accept gifts prohibited by law.

 

In the following report, we present the results of the study of declarations filled out by municipal public officials in 2021-2023, where they declared information on gifts received by the public officials or their family members in 2020-2022.

 

Main Findings

 

      - In the years 2020-2021, a total of 224 public officials or their family members received gifts with a cumulative value amounting to 9.8 million GEL;

      - The value of gifts received in 2020 was 3.2 million GEL, in 2021 – 3.5 million GEL, and in 2022 – 3.1 million GEL;

 

      - In 2020-2022, the public officials themselves received gifts with a total value of 7.3 million GEL, while their family members accepted gifts with a total value of 2.5 million GEL;

 

      - Gifts with a value 7.9 million GEL were received by the officials or their family members from close relatives as defined by the law; gifts with a value of 1.1 million GEL were received from relatives that are not considered close relatives by the law;  gifts of 737.1 thousand were received from friends, and for gifts with a total value of92,2 thousand GEL, the givers are listed as work or other kinds of connections;

 

      - In 2020-2022, officials and their family members received gifts worth 4.8 million GEL in cash, 4.5 million GEL in the form of real estate, while the rest of the gifts with a value of 472 thousand GEL were vehicles or various valuable items;

 

    - In 2020-2022, among the officials of the municipalities, the most gifts were received by officials of Tbilisi City Hall and municipal assembly and their family members, followed by Kazbegi Municipality City Hall, Akhaltsikhe Municipal Assembly, and Ozurgeti Municipal Assembly;

 

    - The monitoring process revealed 53 suspicious cases of public officials accepting gifts in possible violation of the law. Among these, in 29 cases the receiving persons were public officials, and in 24 cases – their family members;

 

    -  Among the suspected cases of accepting gifts in violation of the law, 34 are the officials of municipal assemblies, and 19 are of city halls. For example, in 2020-2022, friends gave 64,000 GEL and 8,000 USD to Poti Municipal Assembly Chairman Aleksandre Tkebuchava; Kareli Assembly Deputy Chairman Giga Mamestarashvili received 30,380 USD and 98,000 rubles from a relative; Kazbegi Assembly faction chairman Ucha Khutsishvili received a vehicle worth 30,000 USD from a relative; Tbilisi Deputy Mayor Andria Basilaiareceived a cash gift of 16,189 GEL from a friend; a family member gave 39,500 USD to the Acting Head of Health and Social Protection Service of Dusheti Municipality Tamila Nadirashvili.

 

     -  Among cases of accepting gifts in potential violation of the law, public officials of Borjomi (4 cases), Poti City (3 cases), Ozurgeti (3 cases), and Tbilisi (3 cases) municipalities are prominent;

 

    -   The declarations of certain officials, along with potential cases of acceptance of gifts in violation of the law, also show signs of possible corruption crimes. For example, Guram Chaduneli, the head of the military registration and recruitment service of Borjomi City Hall, receives remittances from abroad for the purchase of real estate for citizens of foreign countries. After being appointed to the position, 9 different plots of land in the Borjomi municipality with a total value of 172,000 USD were registered as his property. At the same time, the declaration filed by Chaduneli himself indicates that the real owner of these is a citizen of Saudi Arabia, Alrahma Ziyad Ahmed. He also received 36,660 USD in the form of a gift from a friend in 2021.

 

    -   The mayor of the Martvili municipality Aleksandre Grigalava received a monetary bonus in the amount of 40,000 GEL from the Football Federation, but the declaration fails to indicate the reason for receiving this bonus.

 

    -    Certain declarations made by officials often fail to provide precise information regarding the relationship between the recipient and the giver of the gift.

 

 

Conclusion

 

 Results of the monitoring of property declarations of public officials show that in 2020-2022 there were frequent cases of public officials accepting gifts of substantial value. The circumstances outlined in the study related to the relationship between the officials receiving the gifts and the persons giving them, the obscure origins of the funds needed for the gift, etc., raise doubts about the legality of a number of cases, with the case of the officials of the Borjomi Municipality City Hall considered in our study being particularly noteworthy, as it is potentially corrupt and/or and contains signs of official crime.

 

In terms of regulation and enforcement of the policy on gifts in public service, the inadequate regulations and unclear provisions of the legislation of Georgia can be assessed as a significant problem. For example, although the Georgian legislation limits the reception of certain gifts by family members of civil servants, no appropriate liability measures areestablished for the violation of these norms. Additionally, determining the legality of individual cases is significantly complicated by declarations that were not filled completely by officials, which does not allow for the identification of the exact relationship between the givers and recipients of various gift.

 

IDFI believes that the scale of acceptance of gifts by officials in recent years creates a need for the monitoring of legal restrictions on giving gifts to public servants and for increasing the effectiveness of their enforcement. In addition, the factual circumstances presented in the study present a significant basis an additional investigation to determine the legality of certain gifts received by a number of officials.

 

IDFI calls on the following measures:

 

      - The Anti-Corruption Bureau and other investigative bodies to review the suspicious cases revealed by our monitoring of property declarations and to take appropriate measures stipulated by the law.

 

       - Appropriate changes should be introduced in the legislation of Georgia to ensure the clear regulation of the rules for the reception of gifts by family members of public servants and to establish appropriate mechanisms for the enforcement of these rules.   

 

      - Within the framework of monitoring of declarations, it is important to stipulate that the declarations of all officials that do not allow for the identification of an exact connection and identity between the givers and recipients of gift need be specified. Additionally, appropriate amendments should be made to the rules for filling out the declaration, which will obligate officials to indicate the exact date of reception of the gifts in the declaration.

 

Other Publications on This Issue