Chamber of Control's Investigation of NGOs
TI Georgia is concerned about the Chamber of Control’s decision to request financial information from two Georgian NGOs – new Generation-new Initiative (nGnI) and the Republican Institute – in an effort to enforce new party financing rules. Neither of the two organizations has, to our best knowledge, engaged in campaigning for a political party. Nor has the Chamber released any reasoning and evidence why party financing regulation should be applied to these two particular organizations.
We and many other civil society and media organizations have voiced concerns over the vagueness of several new provisions. We believe that the goal of party financing regulation should be to promote a fair and transparent electoral environment. Rules should be designed so that political parties and candidates cannot use opaque shell entities to evade donation and spending rules and have directly controlled entities run their campaigns.
However, the way the Chamber of Control is now starting to apply party financing regulations has a major chilling effect on civic engagement and political public debates in Georgia. NGOs, active individuals and also many media outlets have reason to worry that their activities might be classified as “directly or indirectly connected to a political party” and thus be subject to rigid party financing rules. If applied, these rules, in practice, could lead to the freezing of their assets and would require most organizations to stop operations.
TI Georgia has joined the following joint statement by a group of non-governmental organizations:
Joint Statement by NGOs on the Chamber of Control's investigation of nGnI
On February 8, the Georgian Chamber of Control classified the non-governmental organization New Generation – New Initiative (nGnI) as an entity affiliated with a political party by requesting the disclosure of its financial data.
This step clearly illustrates a real threat to civil society activities, which we have highlighted since the adoption of the new Law on Political Unions of Citizens in December 2011.
Article 261 of the Law on Political Unions of Citizens states that party financing regulation cannot not be used to limit civic engagement and freedom of speech. However, the Chamber’s request is evidence that there is a real threat which might be applied to any NGO or citizen.
nGnI has never had any declared political objectives, nor has it supported any political party or candidate. The focus of its work is election monitoring and as a civil society organization, nGnI is also a member of a commission that works on improving voters’ lists, which has been established by a presidential decree.
The Chamber of Control’s action is based on vague and inconsistent criteria in the legislation and is guided by a “presumption of guilt”. Sanctions imposed by the Chamber could eliminate the primary source of income for organizations and pose a threat to any active citizen, non-governmental organization, or media outlet which is monitoring the government’s activities.
We believe that the Chamber of Control’s decision to designate nGnI as an entity affiliated with a political party is groundless and contradictory to the law. It represents an act against civic engagement and perils the work of non-governmental organizations in Georgia.
We demand that:
- The Chamber of Control of Georgia substantiates its request to NGOs and provides for an opportunity to any stakeholder to present its case and to appeal any decision taken;
- The Georgian Parliament immediately initiates changes to the Law on Political Unions of Citizens, in order to ensure the freedom and protection of any civic activities.