Staffing policy of the Georgian Public Broadcaster under question
On September 9, 2015, Nino Danelia, former member of the Monitoring Council at the Georgian Public Broadcaster (GPB), spoke live on Rustavi 2 about cases of nepotism in the public broadcaster. Other media outlets also reported that family members of the Director General of GPB Giorgi Baratashvili are employed at the TV station. Transparency International Georgia (TI Georgia) requested public information about these persons from the GPB.
According to the GPB website, Giorgi Baratashvili has worked at the TV station since 2005, and was elected as its drector general towards the end of 2012. In 2013, the GPB Board dismissed Baratashvili twice in March and April. Baratashvili was finally reinstated in December 2013.
According to information provided to us by the GPB, 4 family members of the director general are indeed employed at the public broadcaster. Giorgi Baratashvili’s wife Ana Nadiradze is the executive producer of morning programs since September 23, 2013. At the time of Nadiradze’s appointment, Baratashvili was no longer the director. The GPB Board declared a vote of no confidence towards him on September 6. According to Giorgi Baratashvili's asset declaration submitted in 2015, his wife had received a total salary of GEL 30,000 in 2014.
In an interview with TI Georgia Giorgi Baratashvili stated that his wife, who had worked at the GPB for years, left the public broadcaster after he was appointed director. In September 2013, after the GPB Board dismissed Baratashvili for the second time, Nadiradze returned to the public broadcaster after being offered a position. Nadiradze’s position has not been discussed since Baratashvili’s final reinstatement as the director.
Mikheil Nadiradze, reported by the media to be Ana Nadiradze’s brother, has worked at the TV stations since July 2012. According to the voters’ list, Ana Nadiradze and Mikheil Nadiradze are registered at the same address, which also points to their family ties. At the time of Mikheil Nadiradze’s appointment in 2012, Giorgi Baratashvili was a technical director at the GPB. In June 2013, during Baratashvili’s time as the director, Nadiradze was appointed as the head of the technical department.
According to Giorgi Baratashvili, Mikheil Nadiradze had been working for the GPB prior to 2013 as part of a technical team at the Kutaisi Parliament. Nadiradze was transferred to a new position after his old position in Kutaisi was abolished.
Salome Sonishvili, reported by the media to be Giorgi Baratashvili’s niece, has worked as a newsroom correspondent since 2009. At the time of her appointment, Baratashvili headed the technical department.
Salome Sonishvili’s husband Kakhaber Sonishvili has worked at the GPB since 2013. In March 2013, when Giorgi Baratashvili served as director general, Kakhaber Sonishvili was appointed deputy director in financial matters. Sonishvili was selected as deputy by Baratashvili, who stated, “I offered Kakha Sonishvili a position soon after my appointment. He previously worked for the Chamber of Control and I did not personally know him. We chose Kakha Sonishvili based on a number of positive recommendations”. According to Kakhaber Sonishvili’s asset declaration submitted in 2015, his total salary in 2014 was GEL 44,160, while his wife received GEL 12,048. In his 2014 asset declaration (describing his assets of the previous year), Sonishvili does not mention his wife, indicating that they were not married in 2013. According to Baratashvili, his deputy Kakha Sonishvili was not acquainted with his niece prior to his appointment at the GPB.
According to Giorgi Baratashvili, “these people have worked at GPB for years. I was appointed as director general in late 2012, in December. These people have their own history of working in the public broadcaster. What should I have done – fired them? Based on what? The situation is somewhat awkward, however, it is not illegal. Nepotism, as I understand it, would be me appointing my relatives after becoming the director. I have not done this, these people were already working here, and my appointment as the director should not be their problem. There could be a moral problem, but this problem concerns me alone, and these people should not lose their carriers because of it. Baratashvili also stated that he officially requested the GPB Board to consider the issue and make a decision.
In response to TI Georgia’s question on whether open competitions were announced for all abovementioned vacancies, Giorgi Baratashvili stated that the Law on Public Broadcaster does not obligate the GPB to announce open competitions for its vacancies. According to Baratashvili, with each vacancy the public broadcaster tries to select a suitable candidate from its existing staff and announces open competitions only when it is unable to do so.
Vasil Ivanov has worked as a newsroom anchor since 2013. Ivanov is the son of the producer general of Channel 2 Dodo Shonava, who has worked at the GPB since 2009. Vasil Ivanov’s sister Rusudan Ivanov has worked as the technical producer of Channel 2 since 2011 (according to the voters’ list, both are registered at the same address). Vasil Ivanov's wife Maia Bokeria has worked at the GPB since 2010. In July 2015, she became the producer of Channel 2. According to Giorgi Baratashvili, Vasil Ivanov was appointed anchor based on a decision made by the GPB management. Dodo Shonava was not involved in this process. According to Dodo Shonava, Maia Bokeria and her son did not know each other when Bokeria started working in Channel 2, while her daughter Rusudan Ivanov has worked at the GPB since 2002. Rusudan Ivanov initially worked at the public broadcaster radio and later moved to become a technical producer of Channel 2.
Based on the obtained information as well as interviews conducted with the GPB director and the producer of Channel 2, TI Georgia believes that the staffing policy employed by the public broadcaster is vague and inconsistent. In order to prevent future cases of nepotism, the GPB should introduce a practice of announcing open competitions for all of its vacancies, in which existing employees as well as any other applicants will be allowed to participate. This will ensure fairness and transparency of the staffing policy, which, in turn, will increase public trust in the GPB and make it a more attractive employer on the job market.
The GPB Board is also responsible for ensuring transparency. Considering the context, it is essential for the Board to respond to the director general’s request and make its decision public as soon as possible.