Like Kakha Bekauri, another member of the National Communications Commission fails to meet qualification requirements for his post
Transparency International Georgia continues to study whether the members of the National Communications Commission meet the qualification requirements obligatory for holding their posts. This research has revealed that, like the chairman of the commision Kakha Bekauri, other commissioner Merab Katamadze does not meet the educational qualifications required by the law either.
This research points at the existence of institutional problems with regard to the selection of the Commission members by the Georgian president, government and parliament. Two out of five current members of the Commission do not meet the legal requirements, which represents a serious problem that needs to be investigated by the authorities. No branch of the government tried to check whether the nominated candidates satisfied the requirements stipulated by the current legislation.
Who is Merab Katamadze?
Before his election as a member of the National Communications Commission, Merab Katamadze worked in various capacities. Katamadze founded an independent TV channel Meridiani, a publishing house Azri and an information agency Metskhre Talgha (Ninth Wave). He was also the executive director of the Kviris Posta newspaper. In 2013, Mr Katamadze worked as a specialist at the parliamentary investigation commission which was looking into the activities of the National Communications Commission; later on, in 2014-2015, he became a consultant to the chairperson of that very regulatory agency.
As a consultant, Merab Katamadze received his compensation from the Georgian Republican Party and the Georgian Dream political association. The membership of the Republican Party became the grounds for not selecting Merab Katamadze as a member of the Public Broadcaster’s Board since, according to the selection commission’s statement, they wished to choose a candidate free from political influence. However, this did not prevent Merab Katamadze from being elected a member of the regulatory commission later.
After several attempts, Merab Katamadze was elected a member of the National Communications Commission in 2015. According to the declaration he filled out in 2016, Katamadze’s income as a member of the National Communications Commission was GEL 168,069. He did not indicate his income in the 2017 declaration.
Merab Katamadze’s education
According to Paragraph 6 of Article 9 of the Law on Broadcasting, a member of the National Communications Commission, along with meeting other required qualifications, has to have the following academic degree: “Master’s or equivalent academic degree in economics, public administration, business administration, law, electronic communications or journalism”. In 1981, Katamadze graduated from the Faculty of Automation and Computing Technique of the Georgian Polytechnic Institute where he specialized in automated systems of control and received qualification of systems design engineer. According to the information we requested and received from the Technical University, Merab Katamadze’s diploma is not equivalent to the academic degree requirements stipulated by the Law on Broadcasting.
How Merab Katamadze was elected a Commission member
According to the Law of Georgia on Broadcasting, the president agrees with the government on at least three candidates out of those participating in an open competition, which is confirmed by the prime minister’s countersignature; after that, the Georgian president presents the candidates to the Parliament of Georgia. A nominated candidate is considered elected if he or she receives more votes than other candidates but no less than one half of the parliament’s nominal roll.
Merab Katamadze was elected a member of the Commission in accordance with the procedure described above. Unfortunately, none of the branches of the government checked whether Katamadze’s diploma complied with the requirements of the law, and the parliament supported Merab Katamadze’s candidacy with 86 votes.
Transparency International Georgia’s research has revealed that Merab Katamadze does not meet the requirements for the Commission membership stipulated by the law. Like in Kakha Bekauri’s case, who is facing a similar problem, we call on Merab Katamadze, too, to resign as it is important that the Commission is staffed with people of corresponding qualifications.
This research has also confirmed the existence of the institutional problem related to the selection of the Commission members by the Georgian president, government and parliament. Two out of five members of the National Communications Commission fail to meet the requirements stipulated by the law.
Unfortunately, no investigation of the problem related to Commission Chairman Kakha Bekauri has been initiated by either the president, the government or the parliament. Producing no response to such occurrences considerably harms the reputation and trustworthiness of the National Communication Commission.
To help avoid such cases in the future, Transparency International Georgia once again suggests that the Law on Broadcasting is amended to allow the Commission members’ failure to meet qualification requirements become a reason for initiating an impeachment procedure against them as, currently, these circumstances are not listed among the causes for starting impeachment procedures in the active legislation.