GNCC leadership impeachment: the next steps
Transparency International Georgia welcomes the fact that Parliament is moving ahead in scrutinizing conflicts of interest and abstinence from work of Commissioner and former Chairman of the Georgian National Communication Commission (GNCC), Irakli Chikovani. On Tuesday, Chikovani resigned from his post as a Commissioner before impeachment procedures were launched.
Tina Kihdasheli, a Member of Parliament for the Georgian Dream who chairs the temporary parliamentary commission investigating possible misconduct in the GNCC, recently announced that her commission is aiming to launch impeachment procedures against two or three out of five GNCC Commissioners.
In addition to Chikovani, the parliamentary commission said will also launch an impeachment of GNCC chairman Karlo Kvitaishvili, who, according to Khidasheli, has served as a member of the Central Election Commission representing the United National Movement, violating the rule that a Commissioner must not be a member of a political party. Furthermore, MPs are questioning the role Nodar Charkhalashvili, husband of Commissioner Sophio Britanchuk, and his involvement in the TV company Objektivi 2 in 2007 and 2008.
Looking beyond the impeachment procedures, the Parliament should:
- Strengthen the conflict of interest rules for Commissioners and senior GNCC staff, including by considering the introduction of a cooling-off period which would prevent high-level employees of the regulator from immediately moving to a company they used to oversee.
- Refrain from unnecessarily politicizing the process and conduct the impeachment and appointment process of new Commissioners in a way that strengthens public trust in the independence and professionalism of the GNCC.
- Amend the law to ensure that future Commissioners have adequate expertise and professional background to manage the Georgian telecom and broadcasting regulator, and that any future GNCC leadership is truly independent from political and sector interests in order to avoid the perceived conflicts of interest that have undermined the work of the regulator in recent years.
- Ask the Ministry of Interior to remove any officers it has placed inside the GNCC, undermining the said independence of the telecom and broadcasting regulator.
Reasons allowing for an impeachment
To launch an impeachment process against a Commissioner, a third of the listed Members of Parliament (50 MPs) have to initiate the procedure. An impeachment is only possible if he/she has faced a conflict of interest or if he/she has failed to fulfill his or her duties for two consecutive months without reasonable excuse (Law on Broadcasting, Article 10).
A conflict of interest – as defined by law – may arise if a Commissioner while in office:
- serves as an official of another administrative authority;
- is a member of any political party;
- provides any remunerated work for, is an official/representative/consultant for, holds shares in, or has any direct or indirect financial interest towards an entity whose activity is subject to regulation by the Commission;
- has a family member that provides any remunerated work for or has any other direct or indirect financial interest towards an entity, whose activity is regulated by by the Commission (Georgian Law on Broadcasting, Article 11).
If MPs initiate the dismissal of a Commissioner, they need to formulate concrete charges and provide documentation to prove their allegations. After the opening of the procedure, the majority of listed Parliamentarians needs to put the issue on the Parliament’s agenda within 30 days, and then MPS another 30 days to vote on dismissing the Commissioner, for which a three-fifths majority of listed members – at least 90 votes – are necessary.
If Parliament fails to get the necessary majority in time, the dismissal procedure is closed and cannot be reopened on the same accusations at a later point. A Commissioner can appeal his dismissal in court. The President can only decree the dismissal of a Commissioner after the Parliament’s approval and after a final court ruling on a possible appeal by the Commissioner.
The President can immediately dismiss a Commissioner if he/she is found guilty of a crime and the jail sentence comes into force, if “he/she is declared to be insane or lost without trace, or in case of his/her death or resignation”.
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