City Hall Advertisement: "Gigi knows exactly what people need"
The words above are cited from the City Hall advertisement for public utility services vouchers and their use. The advertisement runs on Rustavi 2 and Imedi TV channels. We believe that this fact could be perceived as misuse of administrative resources.
The video advertisement is very similar to the pre-election political advertisement, with the City Mayor as protagonist. Although the ad contains instructions on how to use the voucher, the emphasis is not solely on the voucher: the characters in the video are expressly underscoring their gratitude towards the City Hall and namely the Mayor. Moreover, one of them directly states: "Gigi knows exactly what people need." This commercial is actually intended to advertise a particular person and not a fact, an administrative body or its project, and constitutes a typical feature of political advertising. Furthermore, Gigi Ugulava is an official holding a political post with obvious political and electoral purposes.
It should be noted that public institutions are not banned from preparing videos or other reels, depicting their activities and subsequently running them through media outlets. It is unacceptable, however, for the video to be inherently of political nature and a way for channeling public funds for political purposes. Such an act is an example of the misuse of administrative resources (including for political/electoral purposes). In spite of the fact that, under the law, we are not yet in the pre-election period, it is apparent that some political subjects are already preparing for the upcoming presidential elections. Voters, of course, associate particular political party leaders with the political force they represent; therefore, any video containing a hidden political advertisement should be considered as a misuse of administrative resources and illegal advertising, since the regulations for placing political advertisements extend to the period preceding the pre-election phase.
At the same time, the use of public funds for political purposes are not only found under the regulations for administrative resources, but also under party funding regulations. According to these regulations, services provided free of charge (in this case, advertising production and placement) can be considered as a donation, whereas state agencies are not authorized to make such donations.
For reference, last year, TI Georgia brought to attention the alarming trend of public institutions placing advertisements with political/electoral content.
We call on:
public institutions, not to break the law by making inappropriate use of public financial resources;
media outlets, to be more vigilant towards video or other reels used as advertisements and make decisions in accordance with the Georgian legislation;
The Georgian National Communications Commission, to pay attention to the issue of political advertising and take appropriate action;
those political parties who have access to the use of administrative resources, not to use public resources for political purposes;
The State Audit Office, to examine the above case and react appropriately.