Statement concerning the dismissal of employees from public institutions after parliamentary elections - საერთაშორისო გამჭვირვალობა - საქართველო
GEO

Statement concerning the dismissal of employees from public institutions after parliamentary elections

23 January, 2013

The October 2012 parliamentary elections resulted in a change of government in Georgia. Following this significant event, changes have taken place, and are still ongoing in the public service sector throughout the country. While it is natural that reform and reorganization will occur as a new government takes office, in many instances these processes seem unjustified.

According to the information we have obtained, many people have already lost their jobs in public institutions, and this process still continues. Dismissals have occurred both in the capital and regions. We have observed several interesting trends and facts about this process, in particular:

  • A large number of public service employees have submitted resignation letters, as proved by the information we requested and received from different public offices in December (please see the Table). Considering that the unemployment rate is very high in Georgia, this trend raises serious doubts; because in most cases these persons were forced by higher level officials to write resignation letters. In certain instances, officials have publicly confirmed the abovementioned facts.
  • As it was revealed during their media appearances, several newly appointed officials, Kaspi Municipality Gamgebeli Oleg Iadze for example, are not well aware of the Georgian legislation which states: ‘that putting pressure on an employee and dismissal from a job illegally may constitute as a criminal offence and can be classified as an abuse of power under Article 332 of the Criminal Code of Georgia, which results in the violation of individual rights or substantial infringement of public interest’. In such cases, law enforcement agencies have not taken appropriate measures. However, the Ministry of Education responded to similar facts and dismissed its head of office, which is definitely a positive sign.
  • Even though various governmental agencies promptly provide information with regard to dismissed employees; there are cases when the reasons for dismissal are not adequately explained.
  • Most people (493) were dismissed from the Ministry of Internal Affairs, but the Ministry did not provide the reasons for dismissal.
  • At the Ministry of Defense 1,115 people were referred to the human resources department for a consideration of their positions. If these people are not offered alternative employment within a certain period, they will be placed in the list of dismissed employees. 
  • In a letter written by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Maia Panjikidze, and released by the Administration of the President of Georgia, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs asked the President to dismiss 17 heads of diplomatic missions. Five diplomats were dismissed because their rotation date had expired, while two diplomats (Temur Iakobashvili and Alexander Lomaia) expressed desire to leave their respective missions. As for the remaining ten ambassadors, (in Belgium, Council of Europe, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Federal Republic of Germany, Republic of Bulgaria, Republic of Lithuania, Republic of Azerbaijan, Republic of Kazakhstan, Republic of Turkey, People’s Republic of China), the reasons for dismissal are not well-grounded. According to the Georgian Law on Diplomatic Service, Diplomatic Representation is free from party interests. Therefore, it will be a responsible step if the Ministry of Foreign Affairs substantiates the reasons for dismissing the heads of diplomatic missions.
  • Although the results of parliamentary elections should be reflected only on the central government, change of government occurred on the level of local self-government as well. As this process still continues, it has caused a lot of changes for public service personnel. 
  • It should be noted that, in some instances, the dismissals in the regions occurred as a result of the contests-certification commissions failure to be impartial. During oral interviews, questions regarding the political activities of public servants’, while he/she has been on leave, are asked. 
  • With regard to the recruitment of new employees in regions, cases of nepotism are often revealed which means that recruitment is based on kinship relations rather than qualifications. 

In addition to the aforementioned, we managed to obtain more detailed information, regarding the ongoing processes in Adjara and Samegrelo.

Adjara

According to the latest information we have, 11 people were dismissed, after writing resignation letters, in the administration of the Adjara government. Two of them were dismissed due to new employment, whilst  another was dismissed for being absent several times.

On January 5, 2013, the head of media relations spoke about the staff changes at the Supreme Council of Adjara. According to her, 71 people were dismissed from this office. However, this information is not confirmed by the representatives of opposition, nor the government. As we found out, approximately 20-25 employees were dismissed because their contract had expired. Also in some cases (up to 10), several positions were revoked; for example, due to the fact that factions do not exist anymore. The remainder of the employees continue to work in the Supreme Council. 

Currently, a certification process is ongoing in the Supreme Council of Adjara. According to the law, certification can be oral or written. The Supreme Council holds only oral interviews. Unfortunately, NGO representatives are not members of the certification commission. It is a positive sign that one member of the opposition is involved in the commission’s work, but this was decided at the last minute. Also, we welcome the opportunity for the NGO sector to attend interviews.

At this stage, there is a trend occurring during interviews, where parts of questions are not related to professional work, but refer to political party activity and connection to politics. At the same time, there are questions such as: ‘why did public servants not use their vacation at an adequate time, instead of using it during the pre-election period?’ Or, ‘why did they spend their vacation time campaigning for a  political party or on election activities?’ These are questions which are not related to the professional work of public servants.

Transparency International Georgia will observe the certification process in the Supreme Council of Adjara, and will also pay attention to staff changes in other public offices. We hope that decisions will be based on the grounds of public servants’ professionalism rather than on political motives.

Samegrelo

Zugdidi

Zugdidi Municipality City Council has not yet formed a contest-certification commission, which should select and present governor candidates at the meeting. The creation of such commission is guaranteed by the law; however, the City Council is not in a haste. We could not obtain the answer to the following question: when will this process be completed? Accordingly, Edisher Toloraia, Head of the Coalition “Georgian Dream” Zugdidi office, is the acting governor of Zugdidi. He started this job on December 24, 2012, after former governor Alexander Kobalia resigned on December 18.  

After two days of negotiations, our coordinators met with Edisher Tolaraia on January 14. The acting governor said that he will not dismiss those people who have worked within different positions at Zugdidi Municipality for many years; taking into consideration their qualification, experience and human factor.

Regardless of these promises, as Transparency International Georgia found out, Toloraia held a special meeting last week which was attended by the heads of departments, along with employees of Zugdidi Municipality. The acting governor asked all of them to write resignation letters. Also, he appealed to them to persuade subordinate employees to do the same. As it turns out, all employees complied with this demand. However, they were instructed not to date their resignation letters and some of them even continue to work for the Municipality and sign official documents in a capacity, as if they hadn't resigned.  

Finally, Toloraia confirmed with us that employees actually wrote the said resignation letters. The acting governor did not explain why this happened, but emphasized that he is not going to dismiss them. According to Toloraia, he is waiting for the contest-certification commission to commence its work, and plans to leave the majority of employees on their jobs in accordance with the certification process.

Apart from this, it should be noted that Edisher Toloraia appointed Gocha Kekutia, his relative and supporter of the “Georgian Dream” Coalition, as the head of a department at Zugdidi Municipality. Also, another supporter of “Georgian Dream” was appointed as a secretary to the acting governor. Furthermore, Maia Ghurtskaia, formal correspondent of news portal “Info 9”, was named the Head of Public and Press Relations.

There is one more issue connected to Toloraia: according to the statute, the governor should only have two deputies. Currently, this number has increased to three. As it turns out, the City Council had a special meeting, where this amendment was promptly submitted in the statute. As a result, Edisher Toloraia has three deputies; all of them are supporters of “Georgian Dream”. Specifically, these deputies are: Merab Kvaraia, Head of the Election Headquarters in Zugdidi; Giorgi Todua, Head of the “Republican Party” Zugdidi office; and Gizo Sartania, local representative of “Free Democrats”. Former deputies of the governor, Ruslan Kilasonia and Darejan Gabedava, still continue to work at the Municipality, but hold different positions.

It is also interesting to note that Merab Kvaraia, one of the deputies, has been convicted on a criminal offence. According to the legislation, people with convictions are not allowed to work in public service. Kvaraia was arrested on August 26, 2005. He was accused on abuse of power; specifically, misusing  a large amount of money in 2001, while working as a deputy in the Tax Office in Zugdidi. He was imprisoned for 6 years and 6 months. Merab Kvaraia was released from prison on February 24, 2012, after completing his prison term. We questioned the acting governor on Kvaraia’s conviction, but he stated that to-date, the deputies have not presented all documents which are necessary for public servants, including proof of convictions. 

Khobi

As in the case of Zugdidi, a contest-certification commission has not been established in Khobi as yet,  but a public servants’ dismissal process is actively ongoing. On January 5, nine heads of departments, along with 22 heads of territorial units, left their jobs by submitting resignation letters. Eight employees of Khobi Municipality also wrote resignation letters.

Tsalenjikha

Tsalenjikha Municipality was also affected by these changes. The contest-certification commission named Goga Gulordava, “Georgian Dream” coalition supporter, as a candidate for the position of Tsalenjikha governor. After the first stage, the commission named 14 candidates in total. It should be noted that Gulordava was arrested for abuse of power in 2007. He was released after several months. As it turns out from the public statement, Gulordava requests that his case be reviewed. Currently, his conviction is removed.

Abasha

The contest-certification commission was set up the earliest in Abasha, and the governor candidate was also named. However, protests followed the announcement of the governor candidate.  Members of the “Georgian Dream” Coalition expressed their distrust toward Gocha Tchanturia. Some of the members begun hunger strikes after demonstrations. Tchanturia denies the accusation that he got a job with the support of the “National Movement”. Representatives of the rival political camp blame him, not only in political sympathy of the former government, but also in incompetence. They claim that Tchanturia does not have neither sufficient education, nor the necessary experience needed for a public servant position. Together with Tchanturia, people who are on hunger strikes demand unconditional resignation of Davit Topuria, head of the City Council. Coalition supporters have their own candidate for the governor position, Irakli Rukhadze, who worked on different administrative positions in Abasha, during the Soviet Union period.

Recommendations

  • Heads of public offices should justify their decisions in accordance with Georgian legislation. We think that sustainable and stable public service is very important for the country’s development. Whilst persons holding political positions will naturally be substituted by others (from the new government), the change of government should not affect the rest of the bureaucratic apparatus as much as we see it being carried out. High ranking officials of government have spoken on this issue. Georgian legislation prohibits politicization of public service and dismissal of public servants on the grounds of political motives, or replacement of one person by another is also forbidden. Dismissal from public office is only justified: if a person violated law or internal regulations; committed any other serious violations; or does not possess the proper qualifications required for the position. 
  • Heads of local self-government should implement changes in staff recruitment only through the contest and certification process and decisions should be justified as much as possible. Also, they should provide more information on the professional qualifications of newly recruited  employees for the interest of society.
  • It is necessary that law enforcement agencies take appropriate measures on illegal dismissal from public offices, including the increased number of cases as a result of written resignation letters made under duress. 
  • Political party leaders should once more call their activists and supporters to refrain from committing illegal actions and preventing public institutions from conducting normal work. 
  • It is highly desired that a monitoring group be established within the Prime Minister’s Administration to oversee the ongoing processes in public offices, and amongst others, to pay special attention to the regions.

Transparency International Georgia will actively continue to pay close attention to a cadre of human resource policy issues, and in near future we will offer a comprehensive study on this issue.

We ask those public servants, who believe that after October 1 they were illegally or unfairly treated, to provide us with information via electronic application which is available on the following web-page: http://transparency.ge/kitkhvari-sajaro-datsesebulebebidan-datkhovna.

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