Certification planned in the Zugdidi Municipal Administration raises questions
On November 2 this year, the acting head of the Zugdidi Municipal Administration, Gurgen Sartania, issued an order on certification of civil servants employed in the Municipal Administration, which is due to be held on November 17-19. In connection with this, TI Georgia was approached by several employees of the Zugdidi Municipal Administration who expressed doubt that the certification might become a mechanism for dismissing civil servants who are “undesirable” for the authorities. Having studied the circumstances surrounding this issue, we believe that they, in fact, raise certain questions regarding the credibility and necessity of the process. The doubts are further reinforced by the fact that the Standing Commission on Competition and Certification of Civil Servants of the Zugdidi Municipal Administration decided not to allow civil society organizations to observe the certification process.
The order on certification was based on the November 2, 2016 official letter (no. 15) of the aforementioned Competition and Certification Commission to the acting head of the Zugdidi Municipal Administration.
It is noteworthy that the Competition and Certification Commission is headed by Lasha Gogia, who won the extraordinary elections of the head of the Zugdidi Municipal Administration in October 2016. Prior to being elected the head of the Municipal Administration, Mr. Gogia held the position of the chairperson of the Zugdidi City Council.
In a conversation with journalists about the planned certification, Gurgen Sartania, the acting head of the Zugdidi Municipal Administration, said that it was planned to carry out a reorganization of the agency. Statements regarding possible reorganization of the Zugdidi Municipal Administration were also made in June this year when all the employees of the Municipal Administration received a notice about expected dismissal due to reduction of positions in the municipal body. However, no reorganization was carried out in the agency at that time.
We also received a letter from the Zugdidi Municipal Administration which says that the certification will concern 182 civil servants employed in the Municipal Administration, most of whom were appointed to their positions as a result of job competitions held in the years 2015-16.
Considering the size of the bureaucratic apparatus of local municipal bodies, including the Zugdidi Municipal Administration, it might be reasonable to consider carrying out certain reorganization, although what raises doubts is that the decision to conduct the certification was made two days after the second round of the elections (the parliamentary elections and extraordinary elections of the head of the Municipal Administration).
The Competition and Certification Commission didn’t allow our organization to observe the certification process through our representatives. The letter we received from the Commission justifies the refusal by the fact that “the Commission includes representatives of society: M. Nachkebia (N(N)LE People of Zigdidi), B. Chezhia (head of the Council of Civil Advisors – deliberative body of the head of the Municipal Administration), and L. Alania from the United Labor Unions of Georgia.” It should be noted that Murman Nachkebia, the representative of N(N)LE People of Zugdidi, attended a convention of the Georgian Dream – Democratic Georgia party on May 14 this year as a party representative (the photo was taken at the convention of Georgian Dream on May 14 this year).
We believe that the existence of a sustainable and stable civil service is crucial for the country’s normal development. Changes in the government or any of its branches or replacement of individual officials should not be associated with certification of members of the bureaucratic apparatus of the State, including civil servants of local government bodies, or with reorganization of government bodies and dismissal of civil servants. Such consequences may only concern holders of political office and senior officials.
In the view of TI Georgia, it is necessary to ensure the following:
- The Zugdidi Municipal Administration should release detailed information about the planned reorganization and its goals before it conducts the certification;
- The reorganization should precede the certification, as the main goal of the reorganization is to optimize the staff and to make relevant changes in the list of positions. Conducting the certification and establishing the compatibility of the staff – whose positions may be abolished in the process of reorganization or whose job descriptions may be modified – in parallel with or ahead of the reorganization is going to cause untargeted spending of resources and ineffectiveness of the process. In addition, conducting the reorganization and certification simultaneously is going to create more grounds for abuse of authority on the part of the employer and make the employed civil servants vulnerable;
- The certification of civil servants should be conducted in compliance with the principles of openness, transparency, objectivity, lawfulness, and impartiality;
- When assessing the professional skills of concrete civil servants, the Competition and Certification Commission should be guided by the civil servants’ qualifications and compatibility with their positions rather than by political views of any kind;
- Decisions taken by the Commission and other senior officials should be in full conformity with the Georgian legislation;
Dismissal or demotion of civil servants after the certification should be substantiated as fully as possible. At the same time, the public should be provided with comprehensive information about the work experience and qualifications of individuals hired in the positions left vacant as a result of the certification.