Possible cases of nepotism in GNCC's Public Defender Service for Consumer Interests
According to the information received from the Georgian National Communications Commission (GNCC), the Commission's Public Defender Service for Consumer Interests received GEL 335,095 in remuneration and GEL 70,978 in bonuses in 2015. Compared to similar information for 2014, additional GEL 150,000 was spent on staff remuneration in 2015 even though GEL 6,561 was saved in bonuses.
According to the explanation provided by Public Defender for Consumer Interests Tamta Tepnadze and the official letter received from the regulatory authority, the increase in the staff's spending in 2015 was caused by the increase in the number of employees.
According to the letter, until 2015, the Service comprised six employees including Tamta Tepnadze. In 2015, the staff increased by three people, two of them transferred from various departments of the Commission.
Tamta Tepnadze said in conversation with Transparency International Georgia that one of these people was Ilia Rtveliashvili and the other – Irina Tkemaladze. They are non-staff employees. Ilia Rtveliashvili is a godson of Sector Economy Committee Chairman Zurab Tkemaladze. Rtveliashvili himself confirmed this and explained that Tkemaladze is his "father's close friend and practically a family member". He also said, however, that his work experience counts 30 years and Zurab Tkemaladze has never had anything to do with his employment. The other employee of the Public Defender Service, Irina Tkemaladze, is a granddaughter of Zurab Tkemaladze's brother. It is noteworthy that Tamta Tepnadze herself worked in Tkemaladze's committee before being appointed to the post of the public defender. Furthermore, Tkemaladze himself was a member of the competition commission which selected the public defender.
"The staff of the Public Defender was increased by several people, including two non-staff employees: Irina Tkemaladze, who works in PR and marketing, and Ilia Rtveliashvili, who is a lawyer. As for Ilia in particular, he is a qualified person who is an asset for our service. Like others, he was not appointed as a result of a public competition since the law does not require us to do so. However, I am the one demanding that this rule be applied to us as well," Tepnadze said.
The biographies of Ilia Rtveliashvili and Irina Tkemaladze have not been added to the Our Team section of the Service's website, where biographies of five staff members are published. However, Ilia Rtveliashvili himself provided us with his CV, according to which he has many years of experience in construction and energy sector, specializing in safety.
GNCC did not have a Public Defender Service for Consumer Interests from 2007 until 11 February 2014.
After starting to work at the regulatory body, the public defender hired several aides. One of them, Aleksandre Mshvildadze, like Tepnadze, worked at Parliament of Georgia. He held the position of a lawyer at the Foreign Relations Committee.
MP Dimitri Khundadze's son, Giorgi Khundadze, too, has been employed by Tamta Tepnadze's office. According to the explanation that Tepnadze gave to media.ge, the reason for Khundadze's appointment was his education which the Service would benefit from in the process of switching to digital broadcasting. In 2012, Giorgi Khundadze graduated from the Faculty of Energy and Telecommunications at the Technical University of Georgia. The same year, he enrolled in the master's programme at the Faculty of Mountain Geology at the Technical University of Georgia. For one year, he worked for Global Contact Consulting as a coordinator of Mtskheta Municipality.
To clarify, the Public Defender Service for Consumer Interests currently employs: Zurab Tkemaladze's brother's granddaughter, Zurab Tkemaladze's godson, former employee of Zurab Tkemaladze's committee – Tamta Tepnadze, MP Dimitri Khundadze's son. Also, Tepnadze's aide is her bridesmaid, Natia Pangani, who was appointed to the service in 2015.
The amount of Tamta Tepnadze's remuneration in 2015-2016 is unknown to the public since she did not indicate it in her declarations for either 2015 or 2016. As Tepnadze said in conversation with us, she "simply forgot" to indicate her salary in her declarations for both years.
The 2015 activities report of the Public Defender Service is not published on its website. Its presentation was held in March.