Transparency remains a challenge for self-governing cities
Websites of some self-government cities in Georgia do not meet minimum standards of transparency. A two week research conducted by Transparency International Georgia found that Tbilisi City Hall and City Council websites do not include lists of senior officials and newly elected board members. Some city hall and council websites do not publish any of their decisions or other important information. Some of these bodies do not even run a website, which we consider to be unsatisfactory. A handful of municipality (e.g. Ozurgeti ) websites contain their respective city hall / council websites as their own separate sections. There is no need to divide such websites into three separate ones representing the municipality, the city hall and the city council, as long as all the important information is being published.
Major changes have occurred since the 2014 local government elections as well as an earlier adoption of the new local government law by the Parliament in February 2014. The number of local government bodies as well as their rights and responsibilities have increased. More specifically, the initial number of self-governing cities - 5 (Tbilisi, Rustavi, Kutaisi, Batumi and Poti) was increased by an additional 7, all of which now have their own representative (city council) and elected executive (city hall) bodies. These cities are: Tbilisi, Rustavi, Kutaisi, Poti, Batumi, Telavi, Ozurgeti, Zugdidi, Gori, Ambrolauri, Mtskheta and Akhaltsikhe. Self-governing cities own property, have their own budget and revenues. This increase in authority for local governments has raised the issue of their transparency and accountability.
This is why TI Georgia decided to assess the level of transparency of the 12 self-governing cities (city halls / councils) by looking at their websites. To do this, we looked at 8 major information categories, found in the graphs below, which we decided to publish in order to allow interested citizens and organizations to be able to monitor local government activities more effectively.
We found Telavi and Batumi to be the two most transparent among 12 self-governing cities. Both cities have relatively minor shortcomings. Telavi did not publish its normative acts, while Batumi did not publish its council agenda. In case of Tbilisi websites, we believe that they do not meet even the lowest of transparency standards, since they do not even list the city’s senior officials and council members. There are cases when a municipality website contains the city hall / council websites as separate sections, but still does not contain necessary information for citizens. Ozurgeti, being an example of this, received a low score from us for the city hall / council related information categories. Least transparent cities include Mtskheta, Ambrolauri, Gori, Zugdidi and Akhaltsikhe, which neither have city hall /council websites nor are they represented as sections on their respective municipality websites.
Considering the fact that the number of internet users in Georgia is increasing every year (48% of citizens used the internet in 2013), self-governing city authorities need to publish as much information on their websites as possible, in this way, ensuring transparency of the local government. A number of self-governing cities have adopted decrees containing lists of information categories that need to be published proactively. Most cities, however, do not publish information of high public interest, such as normative acts and council meeting agendas. Such information allows citizens to actively observe city hall / council activities. Conversely, absence of such information online calls the transparency and accountability of local government bodies into question. It is important for self-governing city authorities to adopt a decree that will allow them to offer more comprehensive information to citizens.
Finally, proactive publishing of information should be regulated through a special law, which would establish common standards for all public institutions in this area. The Anti-Corruption Network of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has already presented a similar recommendation to the government. We believe that the recommended list of information categories should also include public procurement data, city council decision drafts, its schedule and meeting agenda, and information on salaries and bonuses.
The following websites were evaluated:
- Ambrolauri: ambrolauri.ge
- Akhaltsikhe: akhaltsikhe.ge
- Batumi: batumi.ge, batumicc.ge
- Gori: gori-municipality.ge
- Zugdidi: zugdidicity.ge, zugdidi-sakrebulo.ge
- Tbilisi: tbilisi.gov.ge, sakrebulo.ge
- Telavi: telavi-gov.ge
- Mtskheta: mtskheta.org.ge
- Ozurgeti: ozurgeti.org.ge
- Rustavi: rustavi.ge
- Poti: poticity.ge
This project is funded by the European Union.
This publication has been produced with the assistance of the European Union. The contents of this publication are the sole responsibility of Transparency International Georgia and can in no way be taken to reflect the views of the European Union.