Parliamentary Control Related to the Management of the Pandemic
Transparency International Georgia assessed parliamentary oversight of the Government's performance related to the management of the pandemic during the period between 21 March 2020 and 31 December 2021, and the results of the decision to delegate power restricting fundamental human rights from the legislature to the Government.
During the Covid-19 pandemic, the Parliament of Georgia failed to carry out effective control of the Government’s performance. The report identified all the shortcomings of the parliamentary oversight over the executive in Georgia.
● The Parliament failed to fully exercise parliamentary control due to several reasons: political crisis in the country; frequent cases of neglecting the parliamentary control mechanisms by the members of the government; frequent boycotts by the opposition; lack of the parliamentary oversight traditions and the legislation that does not give enough powers to the opposition;
● The limited powers given to the opposition are not exercised properly because the Government does not cooperate with the opposition and mostly neglects their initiatives on exercising parliamentary oversight, while the parliamentary control carried out by the majority is ineffective and mostly formal;
● Parliamentary control mechanisms were not effectively applied in the process of management of the pandemic, as well as important accompanying problems, such as corruption risks during the pandemic, public procurement, changes implemented in the sphere of education, and so on;
● The Minister of IDPs from the Occupied Territories, Health, Labour and Social Affairs of Georgia was not summoned to the sitting of the Education and Science Committee;
● The Minister of Education was not summoned to the sitting of the Education and Science Committee to discuss the issue of online learning. The Committee established a thematic inquiry group on this issue only a year after the COVID-19 outbreak;
● The Budget and Finance Committee discussed the budgetary issues related to the Coronavirus pandemic within the framework of the budget performance report; however, it held no separate sitting either regarding this issue or the issue of public procurement. The legislature also did not use the parliamentary control mechanisms to identify the increased risks of corruption and alleged corruption schemes during the pandemic;
● During the reporting period, the parliamentary committees did not scrutinize the compliance of the pandemic-related normative acts issued by the Government with the Georgian legislation, as well as the status of their implementation. In the situation, when the Executive Government was given full discretion for restricting human rights, the application of this mechanism for exercising the Parliament’s oversight function would have been extremely important.
Statistics on Use of Control Mechanisms
● 2 interpellations were held;
● A total of 11 ministerial hours were scheduled in 2020; however, seven of them were not held (Levan Davitashvili, Mikheil Chkhenkeli, Tea Tsulukiani, Davit Zalkaniani, Natela Turnava, Ketevan Tsikhelashvili). The majority of opposition did not attend the sessions as they boycotted the Parliament. As for the year 2021, all ministerial hours were held as scheduled.
● 18 MPs addressed an accountable person/agency with 53 questions related to the pandemic. 41 out of them were answered. 38 questions were posed by the opposition and 15 – by the majority. The majority of questions (13 questions) related to the pandemic were posed by MP Mikheil Sarjveladze from the parliamentary majority and Giorgi Kandelaki (12 questions) from the opposition. 12 of the questions left unanswered were posed by the MPS from the majority (5) and opposition (7) almost equally.
● 23 thematic inquiry groups were formed during the reporting period. Six of them were tasked to discuss the issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic. During the reporting period, in four out of six cases, a thematic inquiry group submitted a conclusion; however, the public has no information about fulfilling the recommendations;
● The opposition factions exercised the right to summon accountable persons to committee sittings 10 times, including 4 times - in connection with the COVID-19 pandemic. The following public officials did not show up for committee sittings: Minister of IDPs from the Occupied Territories, Labor, Health and Social Affairs, Ekaterine Tikaradze; Minister of Justice, Rati Bregadze; Minister of Internal Affairs, Vakhtang Gomelauri. The parliamentary majority factions did not use this mechanism. The committees exercised this right 9 times; however, only 6 accountable persons showed up. None of them raised the issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic;
● During the state of emergency (from 21 March 2020 to 22 May 2020), the parliamentary committees, factions, and individual MPs did not use the following control mechanisms:
➔ Ministerial hour;
➔ Oversight of normative acts enforcement;
➔ The Parliament did not ask the Prime Minister to submit a progress report on the implementation of the government program;
➔ The parliamentary committees and factions did not summon a member of the government, an official accountable to the Parliament to plenary sessions.
● During a crisis, not only the Parliament should not refuse to perform its functions, but it should exercise full parliamentary oversight. A special oversight is required over the government-imposed restrictions directly related to the restriction of human rights;
● The Parliament, through its committees, should regularly examine the normative acts issued by the Government regarding the management of the pandemic;
● The committees should summon accountable persons to the sittings and hear information about the management of the Coronavirus pandemic, including about the issues related to public procurements and corruption risks during the pandemic;
● Members of the Government should address the issue of parliamentary control in a responsible manner even when the oversight is initiated by the opposition; summoned by the factions, they should appear to committee sittings and give timely and comprehensive answers to the questions posed by MPs;
● The pandemic-related thematic inquiry groups should exercise effective oversight on the fulfillment of recommendations by the government;
● Information related to summoning an accountable person to a committee sitting should be published on the Parliament’s website; in addition, information about a public official’s failure to appear at a committee sitting should be easily available.