Detained Former High-Ranking Tbilisi City Hall Official's Conflict of Interest
According to the information disseminated by the media on 31 August 2017, the Chief Prosecutor’s Office detained former Deputy Head of the Tbilisi City Hall Architecture Service, Levan Dzagnidze, on the charge of attempted misappropriation of a large sum of money. It is noteworthy that, between September and December 2014, in his capacity as the Architecture Service representative, he was a member of the Service’s Regulatory Commission on the Use and Development of Territories (the so-called Zoning Council).
As the Commission is responsible for the preparation of conclusions and recommendations on city planning, land use, special zoning agreements and other issues for the governing bodies of Tbilisi, Transparency International Georgia is currently reviewing possible conflicts of interest and corruption risks among the Commission's members. For this reason, the Organization has examined conflict of interest risks involving former high-ranking official of the Tbilisi City Hall Architecture Service, Levan Dzagnidze.
According to his income declarations, in 2014-2016, Levan Dzagnidze held the positions of deputy head of the Architecture Service and the head of the Permits Department. He was also working as an architect for LEPL “Agency for Education and Science Infrastructure Development”. At the same time, starting in 2013 (including the period of holding positions at the Tbilisi City Hall Architecture Service and the Zoning Council), Levan Dzagnidze was one of the directors and the holder of a 33-percent share in LLC “A3”. According to the company’s statutes, the scope of its activities includes working in the field of architecture, project development and design, property legalization, measuring property, and architectural consulting. In his income declarations, Levan Dzagnidze failed to indicate that, in addition to being a shareholder of LLC “A3”, he also held the director’s post. This violates the provision of the Law On Conflict of Interest and Corruption in Public Institutions which stipulates that an official is obliged to include the information about entrepreneurial activities when filling out income declaration, including the form of involvement in such entrepreneurial activity.
Levan Dzagnidze was a member of the so-called Zoning Council between September and December 2014. Interestingly, during his membership of the Commission as well as the subsequent period, the Commission approved three requests filed by Levan Dzagnidze’s business partner, Giorgi Mirianashvili (one of the directors and the holder of a 33-percent share in LLC “A3”) concerning expansion of city-planning parameters (for example, the permitted height of a building). Of these, the first approval was issued in 2014, during the period when Levan Dzagnidze was a member of the Commission. The functional purpose in the request for the address No 22 Delisi III Street indicates an apartment block; the chief architect is Aleksandre Sesiasvhili, the holder of a 34-percent share in “A3” and one of its directors, and therefore, a business partner of Mirianashvili and Dzagnidze. In 2015, the Zoning Council issued two more permits in response to Mirianashvili’s similar requests (expansion of city-planning parameters). One of these requests mentions LLC “A3” itself.
Transparency International Georgia believes that, in the absence of proper prevention mechanisms, there is a high risk of the conflict of interest with regard to the Council’s activities, and the presented case can serve as one of the possible examples. The Organization continues to examine possible risks of the conflict of interest and corruption in the Regulatory Commission on the Use and Development of Territories (the so-called Zoning Council) and will publish its full report by the end of this month.