Staffing Policy Problems in Mtatsminda District Administration
In March, 2016, two citizens contacted Transparency International Georgia and informed us about nepotism and political discrimination in the staffing policy of Tbilisi Mtatsminda district administration. Problems were reported specifically in relation to the interview stage of vacancy competitions and the process of appointing acting officials. According to these citizens, the problem became particularly alarming after August 2014, when Gela Archvadze was appointed as the Governor of Mtatsminda. The citizens refused to disclose their identity, stating that their safety would be secured only through complete anonymity. Based on this information, we decided to investigate the issue and indeed found problems with the staffing policy in Mtatsminda district administration.
Considering the fact that the current legislation does not allow for effective ways to monitor, evaluate and verify the interview stage of vacancy competitions (there is no obligation to audio or video record interviews; the criteria for evaluating candidates are unclear, giving selection committees wide discretion; etc.), we decided to request information on acting officials from the district administration.
According to the Law on Public Service, an acting official:
- May be appointed temporarily and without competition to a vacant position that is to be filled through a competition for no more than 3 months.
- The same person may not be appointed as an acting official to the same position for a second time.
Acting officials in Tbilisi district administrations are personally appointed and dismissed by district governors.
In other words, a district governor may personally appoint an acting official to a position that must be filled through competition, who then has to either leave their position after 3 months or win the competition within this period to keep the position.
We requested Mtatsminda district administration to provide us with all of the orders on appointing acting official signed by governor Archvadze since his appointment in August 2016 until March 2014. During this period, Gela Archvadze had appointed 94 persons as acting officials. The staff of Mtatsminda district administration consists of 77 persons.
It turns out that many of the acting officials were being reappointed to different positions in the administration, possibly in order to bypass the 3 month limit set by the law. 45 of the 94 acting officials were reappointed to other positions as acting officials before the expiration of the 3 month period. Later, 10 of the 45 reappointed acting officials were yet again reappointed to different positions as acting officials.
It is possible that the governor used the reappointment tactic to keep specific people that failed to pass the competition employed while not having to violate the 3 month legal limit.
As a result, from August 2014 until March 2016, many of the positions in the district administration that were supposed to be filled through competition were occupied by persons that had not passed a vacancy competition.
The district governor is also a member of the staff selection committee. During the same period, Mtatsminda district administration had announced competitions on 118 vacancies, of which 57 failed at the interview stage. Each of the failed competitions allowed the governor to personally appoint an acting official to the position.
The governor of Mtatsminda avoided meeting with us, despite our numerous requests to meet and hear his side of the story.
Mtatsminda district administration is not an exception. Systemic problems of public service in Georgia have been repeatedly pointed out by the legislative government. For example, according to the March 24, 2016 decision of the Appeals Court on the case of I.K against Tbilisi City Hall, “... the public service is riddled with serious problems that are caused by the misunderstanding of the nature and objectives of public service, disregard of standards of the rule of law, perception of public service as a means to achieving one’s personal and party goals and employing party workers or activists, complete disrespect of human rights and freedoms, misapprehension of personal responsibility by public servants, and low professional qualifications, which, ultimately, hinders the establishment of a legal state. All this leads to hopelessness of public servants (and not only), reduces their work motivation, creates a feeling that each political change in the country will endanger their employment, which results in public servants directing all of their efforts towards keeping their job instead of effectively fulfilling their responsibilities. Considering these circumstances, in most cases, public servants are unprincipled and are not inclined to work towards qualified implementation of their official duties.”
Serious problems with the staffing policy have been identified in many other public agencies. Since 2012, TI Georgia assisted 58 public servants in restoring their labor rights through court. There are reasonable grounds to suspect that the kind of malpractice identified in Mtatsminda district administration is present in other public agencies as well.
We call on Tbilisi City Hall to look into the staffing policy of Mtastminda district governor and respond to violations in accordance with the law, in order to safeguard the principles of neutrality, impartiality and legality of public service.
 An acting official may be appointed to the vacant position specified in Article 2 of the Law of Georgia on the Conflict of Interests and Corruption in Public Service, which is to be filled through a competition, for no more than one year.