Georgia’s Anti-Corruption Policy Fails To Fulfill Association Agreement and Association Agenda Commitments
A policy paper by Transparency International Georgia examines the situation in Georgia in terms of corruption in the context of the commitments which the country has made under the EU Association Agreement and Association Agenda.
The Association Agreement between the European Union and Georgia, as well as the Association Agenda for 2017-2020 approved by the parties to facilitate the implementation of the Association Agreement, provide for cooperation between the parties in combating corruption, while highlighting Georgia’s commitment to address corruption, in particular complex corruption.
Over the year and a half since the adoption of the current Association Agenda, Georgia has attained positive results in terms of maintaining previous achievements in terms of eradicating petty corruption. However, Georgia’s progress in tackling high-level corruption remains weak.
According to public opinion surveys, citizens have a negative view of both the overall situation in the country in terms of corruption and the dynamics of this situation. They believe that the government does not effectively investigate the cases of corruption involving high-ranking officials or influential individuals with ties to the ruling party.
Such public attitudes evidently stem from the ineffective response of the law enforcement agencies to recent high-profile cases of alleged corruption related to a variety of criminal activities, including unlawful interference with business activities, illegal participation in entrepreneurial activities, illegal enrichment, violation of party and campaign financing rules, and others. A number cases of this kind are worth mentioning:
- The so-called "Omega case": A scandal which began after Zaza Okuashvili, one of the founders of the Omega Group, spoke out against the government and a number of secretly-recorded audio tapes were released.
- A journalist investigation concerning expensive real estate owned by high-ranking officials (including MPs, ministers and judges).
- Vote buying and multiple cases of alleged violation of campaign finance legislation during the 2018 presidential election which benefited the presidential candidate backed by the ruling party and were not addressed effectively.
- The statement by Mamuka Khazaradze, founder of the TBC Bank, that the government exerted pressure on him during the 2018 presidential election in order to force him to take actions benefiting the presidential candidate backed by the ruling-party.
- A journalist investigation concerning the suspicious enrichment of Deputy Justice Minister Alexander Tabatadze.
- A journalist investigation concerning the undisclosed property of former Deputy Prime Minister Dimitri Kumsishvili.
- The case of Mirza Subeliani, a former senior employee of the Prosecutor’s Office.
- The State Audit Office's finding regarding the transfer of public property to a company linked with former Chief Prosecutor Otar Partskhaladze (and Partskhaladze’s subsequent physical assault on General Auditor Lasha Tordia).
Ineffectiveness of the law enforcement agencies in terms of addressing high-level corruption is largely a result of the current nature of the political system: the concentration of power in the hands of a single political party, which makes it possible for this party to exert undue influence on the activities of these and other public institutions.
In addition, the National Action Plan for 2018 approved by the Government of Georgia to facilitate the implementation of the Association Agreement and the Association Agenda, was mainly focused on the activities of technical nature (especially training sessions), which are useful by themselves, but cannot address the above-mentioned systemic problems.
To overcome these systemic problems, the Georgian authorities must establish an independent anti-corruption agency and ensure its protection from partisan influence, on the one hand, while also promoting, in the long run, the establishment of a more pluralistic political system. Replacing the mixed electoral system with a fully proportional one would be the first important step forward.