Obstacles to civic participation in Zugdidi - საერთაშორისო გამჭვირვალობა - საქართველო

Obstacles to civic participation in Zugdidi

18 June, 2013

The Zugdidi Sakrebulo

Publicising information concerning sittings

Transparency International Georgia (TI Georgia) noted in its blog-post, released on 12 April 2013, that the majority of Sakrebulos in the Samegrelo-Zemo Svaneti release information concerning the next Sakrebulo sittings in violation of[1] legal requirements. A malpractice which the Municipality unfortunately still pursues.

Take for example the notification of the 1 May 2013 sitting which was published on the same day, or even that of the May 15 sitting which was not published at all. Decisions in Sakrebulo are often made without public discussions and rarely take public opinion into account. This is a breach of law and prevents the civil sector from participating in the activities of local self-government authorities.

Preparing information about the issues on the agenda

Unfortunately, the Sakrebulo administration does not duly prepare relevant information concerning the issues on the agenda. Sometimes this lack of information and is so acute that the majority of Sakrebulo members find themselves unaware of the issue they are supporting.

One such example was witnessed by a member of TI Georgia who attended the sitting on the 15 May 2013. It was examining "the funding of GEL 230,600 for improvements to the station's surrounding land and its roads". Yet during the vote the respective document did not specify which station was to be improved. Thus the Sakrebulo members upheld the issue without familiarising themselves with the relevant documentation.

Meetings with the local population

Pursuant to the effective legislation,[2] a Sakrebulo member is obligated to meet with voters at least once in a quarter. TI Georgia requested the minutes of these meetings between Sakrebulo members and voters. A request which was left unanswered,  leading us to think that either these meetings do not occur at all, or else, in a more positive scenario, the meeting minutes are simply not drawn up.

It is also unclear whether the Sakrebulo Chair has met with the local population or submitted his report on performed works to the voters, as we have not yet received the official response to the written request on this issue.

Sakrebulo members are the legal representatives of the Sakrebulo, elected by the residents and voters of the Zugdidi Municipality. They are primarily responsible for their own voters and the population in general. They are held accountable by the population and are thus obligated to actively cooperate with them and make key decisions through consultations and partnerships with them. If this is not the case, the Sakrebulo loses its functional purpose as a representative authority of local self-government and the collective public institution.

The Majoritarian MP's Bureau

A majoritarian MP's bureau[3]is set up locally to: organize the work concerning the voters; ensure the MP’s participation in the activities of executive authorities, local self-government and relevant governing authorities; solve local issues. The expenses of these activities are funded by the Parliament’s budget.[4]

The United National Movement candidate, Roland Akhalaia, became the Zugdidi majoritarian MP at the 2012 parliamentary elections with 57.27 percent of the votes. The majoritarian MP's bureau is located in Zugdidi, on the 4th floor of the Samegrelo-Zemo Svaneti Regional Administration building. This agency, however, does not fulfill its obligations.

Since the elections Roland Akhalaia has not once met with the voters. Days for receiving the public are unclear, and the official web-page of Zugdidi's majoritarian MP is just as unhelpful and silent.

A letter received from the majoritarian MP's bureau only reveals that two people are employed in the Bureau (whose monthly salaries are GEL 1,400 and 1,000). Another letter, that in response to the organization's request to obtain the minutes of MP's meetings with voters or the list of activities carried out by the Bureau, reads as follows: "The majoritarian MP carries out systematic activities with the population in the Zugdidi Municipality". However, the full implication of "systematic activities" remains unclear.

Unlike those MPs elected through proportional lists, the responsibility and obligations of majoritarian MPs before their own voters are further compounded by the fact that they gain a seat in Parliament through individual wins. Hierarchically, majoritarian MPs can initiate an issue at the level of central authorities more effectively (in terms of time and bureaucracy) than local self-governments. They should actively cooperate with the ministries and productively participate in the sittings of parliamentary committees. They should pass on the problems identified by the Bureau to the Parliament and Government through legislative initiatives or other forms, so that the problems faced by citizens are instantly resolved. Yet the Zugdidi majoritarian MP and his Bureau is either refusing or is unable to bring about these duties.

[1]  Pursuant to Article 32 of the General Administrative Code of Georgia, each collective public agency is obligated to hold its sittings openly and publicly, except for cases stipulated in Article 28 of this Code. Pursuant to Article 34.1 of the same Law, "a collective public agency is obligated to publicly announce a week earlier about the next sitting, its location, time and agenda".

[2]  Article 324.f of the Organic Law of Georgia on Local Self-Government.

[3]  Article 31 of the Law on the Status of the Member of the Parliament of Georgia.

[4] Article 19.2 of the Regulations of the Parliament of Georgia.

Author: TI Georgia