Every other public official in Georgia submits asset declaration with violations
Transparency International Georgia has studied LEPL Civil Service Bureau’s Report on the Results of Asset Declarations Monitoring 2022 and found that:
- Every other public official in Georgia submits the declaration with violations;
- The Bureau didn’t submit a single declaration to the Prosecutor’s Office in 2022;
- 83% of the MPs monitored submitted the declaration with violations;
- In 87% of the declarations wherein violations found, the data of family members had been indicated incorrectly;
- The violations were confirmed in 95% of the declarations monitored on the basis of a request of the media and civil society.
⮚A high number of violations
In 2022, the Civil Service Bureau verified the asset declarations of 346 public officials, 181 (52%) of which had been submitted with violations. With the Bureau’s decision, 136 officials (39%) were fined, while 45 of them (13%) received a warning.
Despite the fact that the number of negatively assessed declarations decreased by 4% in comparison to the previous year, 52% is a high figure and means that every other declaration is incomplete and flawed.
In 2022, the declarations with violations were most frequently submitted by members of the Parliament of Georgia (83%). This figure has sharply deteriorated, as 42% of the declarations of MPs were assessed negatively in 2021. It should be noted that in comparison to 2021, three times as many declarations of MPs were verified in 2022 due to the reasoned applications of TI Georgia, that were reflecting the findings of our study.
Following Members of Parliament, the public officials with the highest rate of violations are: heads of state-owned enterprises and non-commercial organizations (67%), municipal officials (55%). As for the officials at classified positions, 27 such declarations were verified in 2022 and a violation was found in 11 of them (41%).
In most of the declarations assessed negatively in 2022, the public officials simultaneously have several types of violations. For example, more than half of the officials (53%) have three or more types of violations simultaneously, which means that a considerable part of the information provided in the declarations is not precise and/or complete. This, in its turn, diminishes asset declarations as an anti-corruption mechanism.
According to the CSB 2022 monitoring report, Zurab Khachidze, the Deputy State Representative to the Municipalities of Adigeni, Aspindza, Akhaltsikhe, Akhalkalaki, Borjomi and Ninotsminda, has the most violations - in 8 categories. Khachidze failed to declare his own and his family member’s real estate, entrepreneurial activity, banking accounts, other expenses and revenues; he also failed to declare the salary received during the year and a contract he had concluded; he incorrectly declared the amount on banking accounts; it is noteworthy that Khachidze failed to submit information on the banking account of his family member even after a request by the Civil Service Bureau.
As for the categories of violations, in 2022 the declarants most frequently (in 78%) failed to declare and/or incorrectly declared the information related to family members, including family member(s)’ revenues, movable and immovable property, banking accounts, contracts, and material benefits received from them.
It is alarming that the number of violations related to declaring data on family member(s) has been increasing every year since 2019. Whereas in 2019 this type of violation could be found in 63% of the negatively assessed declarations, in 2022 this figure increased to 78% (see the table below).
As the table illustrates, in 6 of the 7 categories of violations, we have a deteriorated figure in comparison to the previous year (2022 compared to 2021). Along with the data on family members, the cases of failure to declare and/or incorrectly disclose information on contracts and banking accounts have been increasing every year for the past four years. We consider it alarming that the Civil Service Bureau’s requests regarding the submission of information by public officials are left without a response. In 2022, such cases amounted to 29%, whereas in 2019 they equaled 11%.
In addition to the fact that the large-scale concealment/failure to declare information or incomplete submission of information by public officials when submitting the declarations is a direct violation of law, it interferes with the meaningful implementation of external monitoring on the part of the civil society and the media. At the same time, it’s a considerable flaw that information on the scale of violations identified is not published. The report of the Bureau does not disclose the quantity and value of the immovable property that a public official has failed to declare (for example, a vacation home, a garage, or an attic, one piece or property or several pieces, etc.).
⮚Not a single submission to the Prosecutor’s Office
In 2022 – for the first time – not a single declaration was submitted to the Prosecutor’s Office as a result of the CSB monitoring of declarations.
Regrettably, the mechanism of monitoring of asset declarations is not used in Georgia for exposing high-level corruption. Only 11 declarations in total have been submitted to the Prosecutor’s Office as a result of six years of monitoring, whereas the list of alleged cases of incompatibility of duties, conflict of interest and corruption, including unlawful enrichment, identified by local NGOs and journalists keeps increasing year after year.
The low number of declarations submitted to the Prosecutor’s Office and the absence of relevant response points to the weakness of the monitoring mechanism.
A total of 2,268 declarations were verified as a result of the CSB monitoring in the years 2017-2022; a violation was found in 1,487 (65%) cases, from which 1,264 declarants were fined.
The low number of cases submitted to the Prosecutor’s Office may indicate an absence of the political will to identify corruption violations, on the one hand; on the other hand, it may be related to discretionary decision-making on the character (not substantive or substantive) of the violations by the Civil Service Bureau. A good illustration of this is the fact that the 2021 monitoring report, in the description of types of violations, reads that “in 44% of the negatively assessed declarations, the violation was in the real estate section, in which real estate was [inadvertently] omitted…” In the 2022 report, too, in the section on the categories of violations, the Bureau again uses the term “omission”. It is unclear how the Bureau ascertained that the official inadvertently “omitted” a piece of real estate in the declaration and was not trying to conceal it.
It should also be noted that a violation was confirmed in 95% of the declarations verified on the basis of reasoned applications by the media and NGOs in 2022. This figure indicates that the civil society organizations and investigative journalists can identify risk-prone declarations with high accuracy. Accordingly, the Civil Service Bureau should make better use of this resource and also start monitoring on the basis of news reports, for example.
⮚Identification and prevention of incompatibility of duties and corruption offenses
The practice makes it clear that the main goal of the monitoring of declarations in Georgia is not to identify and prevent conflict of interest and corruption offenses.
According to the reports of the Civil Service Bureau, the monitoring only serves one of the main goals determined by the law – to verify the completeness and accuracy of the declared data. The reports of the Bureau of 2017-2021 say nothing of identified cases of incompatibility of duties, conflict of interest and/or unsubstantiated property.
It is a welcome fact that this year, for the first time, the report of the Bureau includes the number of instances of incompatibility of duties identified during the monitoring. According to the report, in 2022 the Bureau identified “70 instances of incompatibility of duties, to which a relevant response was provided”.
However, together with the number, the Bureau should also indicate in relation to which person it has established incompatibility of duties. As “incompatibility of duties” is a broad concept, it is necessary to indicate the violation of which concrete requirement of the law was established.
In addition, the sentence about providing a relevant response is vague. It is important to know what kind of measure the Bureau took in relation to each instance.
⮚The independent commission
Similarly to the bad practice of the previous years, the monitoring of the Bureau in 2022 only verified half of the number envisaged for by the law, as an independent commission was not set up at the end of 2021 either. In spite of the fact that three NGOs submitted an application for the membership in the commission, no representative of the academia expressed any interest.
As for the year 2022, with the efforts of TI Georgia, representatives of NGOs and the academia were coordinated, which resulted in the creation of the independent commission. The commission selected the asset declarations of 317 additional public officials for the monitoring in 2023.
Conclusion and recommendations
The results of the monitoring of 2022 show that the asset declaration of every second public official in Georgia is flawed.
The monitoring of asset declarations of public officials has not yet become a strong instrument for fighting corruption, even after six years. Officials massively violate the rules of filling out the declaration, while the Civil Service Bureau limits itself to imposing a fine or giving a warning. Identification of incompatibility of duties and corruption offenses, including cases of alleged unlawful enrichment, escapes attention. As a result of 2022 monitoring, the Bureau didn’t submit any cases to the Prosecutor’s Office.
For years now, TI Georgia has been drawing the Government of Georgia’s attention, including LEPL Civil Service Bureau, towards the flaws of the existing mechanism of asset declarations and offering ways of eradicating them:
- It is necessary to increase the circle of declarant persons and add prosecutors of all levels, investigators of anti-corruption cases, and advisors to holders of state/political office;
- The list of information to be submitted as part of the declaration should be updated. For example, the remunerative activities prior to a person’s appointment to office and after their dismissal should become public;
- At the time of monitoring of asset declarations, the Civil Service Bureau should strengthen the component of identification of incompatibility of duties and corruption offenses and fully publicize information on violations identified.
 The Report on the Results of Monitoring of Declarations 2022, the Civil Service Bureau, December 31, 2022, accessible here.
 The share of negatively assessed declarations is calculated without those declarations on which the Civil Service Bureau terminated (thus didn’t complete) monitoring during the reporting year. Accordingly, the percentages given in the present study slightly differ from the figures in the CSB monitoring reports.
 The majority of the declarations (285) were selected electronically, with the random selection method, while the rest of them (61) were selected on the basis of a reasoned application.
 A person whose position has been assigned security classification according to the Law of Georgia on State Secrets, the Law of Georgia on Conflict on Interest and Corruption in Public Service, Article 19, accessible here.
 With the exception of the officials at classified positions.
 OECD (2022), Anti-Corruption Reforms in Georgia: Pilot 5th Round of Monitoring under the OECD Istanbul Anti-Corruption Action Plan, p. 136, accessible here.
 The Report on the Results of Monitoring of Declarations 2022, the Civil Service Bureau, December 31, 2022, accessible here.
 On the Approval of the Instruction on Monitoring of Asset Declarations of Public Officials to be Monitored, Ordinance No. 81 of the Government of Georgia of February 14, 2017, Article 2, accessible here.
 The law provides that 10% of the entire number of the declarations must be verified each year, from which 5% must be selected randomly and the remaining 5% – by an independent commission, which is staffed annually – as a result of an open competition – with 3 representatives of the civil society and 2 representatives of the academia.