Removing Representatives of Municipal Chairs from Staff Lists Violates Law
In June-July 2017, in the municipalities of Samegrelo-Zemo Svaneti, representatives of municipal chairs (so-called village representative/gamgebeli) were removed from the municipal staff lists. Service contracts were entered into with the individuals working on these positions. This change affected 168 representatives of municipal chairs of Samegrelo-Zemo Svaneti region. It should also be noted that the same process is underway in almost every municipality in the country. We believe these actions violate the Georgian legislation.
Law on Civil Service obligated the public entities to re-adjust the existing positions at the entities according to the new legislation by 1 July. In accordance with sections 1 and 2 of Article 125 of the Law, if a position entails assistance, technical or temporary functions and duties, it must be removed from the staff list, and service contracts need to be entered into with the persons employed on such positions.
The municipalities in Samegrelo-Zemo Svaneti and other regions deemed representatives of municipal chairs as assistant, technical or temporary roles, and thus removed them from the staff lists. This is despite the fact that these positions are provided under the law and municipal charters deem the functions of the representatives as permanent – making them no different than other certain roles within the staff lists of municipalities.1
In addition to a possible violation of the law, transferring village representatives to civil service contracts will raise the risks of politicizing their roles, especially with regards to the local municipal elections. So far, representatives of municipalities have been appointed via public competitions and for indefinite term. In Samegrelo-Zemo Svaneti, most of these representatives have even undergone attestation procedures. Employing them under service contracts will entail their appointment via simplified competitions (which may include just an interview with the municipal chair). Additionally, the service contracts will have a term whose expiration will allow the municipalities to terminate the employments without cause.
The affected municipal chair representatives themselves affirm the noted scenarios and suspicions. After this change, several representatives from Zugdidi and Senaki municipalities contacted Transparency International – Georgia. They noted that whether the noted service contracts will be renewed with the representatives will depend on the number of votes the ruling party will receive in certain villages in 2017 elections. They fear that this decision was made for exerting pressure on the representatives during the pre-election campaign period. The noted individuals do not wish to make public statements.
Transparency International – Georgia believes that employment policies of certain municipalities with regard to the representatives violate the law. Further, making such changes, especially during the pre-election campaign, creates high risks that the government will use such removals from staff lists and employment of the representatives under service contracts for pressuring and using them for elections.
We call on:
- Local municipalities – to reconsider the noted decision and bring their employment policies into compliance with the Georgian legislation;
- Civil Service Bureau – to develop more detailed instructions on this issue.