GEO

Inadequate use of civil participaton mechanisms in municipalities of Adjara

08 June, 2017

Congruent to the effective laws of Georgia, filing of a petition is defined as one of the tools of citizen engagement in the activities of the local government. In addition, the Local Self-Government Code allows the citizens to convene a session of Sakrebulo, hold a General Assembly of a settlement, and engage in the process of drafting and reviewing the budget. In the office of Gamgebeli/Mayor, a council of civil advisors should be set up. The Local Self-Government Code obliges municipal bodies to take measures to inform citizens about their activities and present a report on their performance to the public. Furthermore, Sakrebulo shall periodically pay field visits to citizens and collect firsthand information about the problems faced by municipal settlements.

Transparency International – Georgia has already studied the way the mentioned mechanisms of civil participation are applied in Samegrelo-Zemo Svaneti and Imereti  municipalities.  This time, we are pleased to present the findings of the survey conducted in Adjara municipalities.

General overview

We addressed Batumi City Hall as well as Gamgeobas of Kvelvachauri, Kobuleti, Khulo, Shuakhevi and Keda municipalities with a request to provide us with the information whether councils of civil advisors were in place in 2015-2016 and whether a general assembly of a settlement happened to be convened.

We also enquired whether Sakrebulo had resolutions adopted on approval of the statute for the General Assembly and the council of civil advisors.  We retrieved the agenda issues covered by the General Assembly and civil advisors in 2015 and 2016, along wth respective minutes. For the municipalities, which do not convene a general assembly of the settlement and have no council of civil advisors set up, we asked to explain underlysing reasons. Additionally, we retrieved copies of the reports presented by Gamgebelis/mayors to the public in 2015 and 2016.

From Sakrebulos of Batumi, Khelvachauri, Kobuleti, Khulo, Shuakhevi and Keda municipalities, we collected information on the number of petitions registered in 2015 and 2016. We studied the number of petitions considered and the follow-up action.  We collected information on the sessions of Sakrebulo, on the rule of registering participants in council meetings. We checked the reports presented by Sakrebulo officials to the public in 2015-2016.

It is noteworthy that in most cases, the information presented by Sakrebulo and Gamgeoba was incomplete. Sakrebulo of Shuakhevi municipality merits particular attention: it turned a deaf ear to our request for information.

General assembly of a settlement

General assembly of a settlement represents a primary tool of citizen engagement in the exercise of local self-government. It ensures active involvement of the constituents registered in the relevant settlement in discussion and solution of the issues that are crucial to the settlement and the municipality and presentation of the above-mentioned issues to the municipal bodies. Memebers of the General Assembly are the constituents registered in the respective settlement, who attend the meeting.

To convene the General Assembly of a settlement:

  1. At least three constituents work out an application for convocation of the General Assembly and submit it to Gamgebeli/Mayor;
  2. Gamgeoba/City Hall registers the initiative and Gamgebeli/Mayor issues a certificate of registration within the period of 3 working days;
  3. Within the period of 1 month after receipt of the registration certificate, the applicants compose a list of constituents (at least 5%), willing to convene the assembly; in addition, they indicate the date, time and place of the meeting and submit the application to Gamgebeli/City Hall. After that, the  General Assembly may be convened within 15 days;
  4. To run its business and facilitate its work, the General Assembly of a settlement is entitled to  elect a Chairperson, whose candidacy has been supported by at least 5% of the assembly members;
  5. The General Assembly is duly constituted if it is attended by at least 20% of the constituents registered in the respective settlement;
  6. The General Assembly of a settlement may be convened by Gamgebeli/Mayor, on his own initiative or upon the motion of Sakrebulo.

Study of collected information reveals that General Assembly meetings have not been convened in most of the municipalities; as for the municipalities, where they had been held, they were mostly convened by Gamgoba and not the civil groups. For the most part, the meetings were dedicated to discussion of due application of funds under the rural support program.

Overall, 87 meetings of the General Assembly took place in various administrative units of Khulo municipality. It is noteworthy that some of the General Assembly minutes provided by Gamgeoba do not include details about the citizens (name / surname) attending the meeting.  Their signatures are also missing; just the number of attending citizens is specified.

General Assembly of a settlement has not been convened in Batumi municipality. Though, Batumi City Hall has submitted to Sakrebulo a draft resolution on “approval of bylaws for the General Assembly of a settlement”, which has not yet been considered and approved by Sakrebulo.

The data provided by Khelvachauri municipality do not allow us to say for sure how many meetings of the General Assembly were held. Just like Khulo municipality, all the meetings held in Khelvachauri were dedicated to discussion of due application of funds under the rural support program.

Khelvachauri and Keda municipalities have provided resolutions on “approval of bylaws for the General Assembly of a settlement”. Despite our repeated appeal, Keda Gamgeoba has not submitted details on the number of General Assembly meetings held and the issues covered during the meetings.

Based on the minutes submitted by Kobuleti Municipality, 30 meetings of the General Assembly were convened in 2016. In each case, the meeting was dedicated to election of a chairman of the settlement.

In Shuakhevi municipality, only one meeting of the General Assembly was held.  The meeting was dedicated to discussion of the following issues: extension of internal road in village Tsivadzeebi, construction of a road to Shavtke and supply of water from Tariangelo. Priority was given to extension of internal road. The members of the Assembly unanimousy approved the issue.

As Transparency International – Georgia believes, two conditions set on convocation of the General Assembly of a settlement: 1. an application for convocation to be signed by 5% of constituents and 2. no decision-making power unless the meeting is attended by at least 20% of the constituents - substantially reduce chances of convening and holding a meeting due to having large number of constituents in specific settlements; in case of separate villages, 20% of registered constituents may not be living at their places of registration; in addition, desire of a small group for convocation of the General Assembly may not be shared by 20% of the constituents. With these factors in mind, we believe that the right of convening the General Assembly should be vested in smaller groups of constituents as well.

The fact that convocation of the General Assembly does not guarantee resolution of problems identified by the population is yet another problem. Appeal of the Assembly to the municipality is just of advisory nature.

Presently, in the settlement, where a Chair of the Assembly is elected, Gamgebeli / Mayor is obliged to convene a meeting at least twice a year; in order to take certain decisions in close communication with the public, it is necessary to hold quarterly meetings. Though, as the survey revealed, municipal officials largely neglect the given commitment.

Petition

Petition is a form of citizen engagement in the exercise of local self-government. A petition can be filed by at least 1 % of the constituents registered in the territory of the municipality and the General Assembly. The following documents can be submitted in the form of a petition:

  • A draft normative administrative-legal act;
  • Basic principles or specific proposals of a draft normative administrative-legal act that is to be prepared;
  • Based on the problems that are common to a municipality and/or to a settlement, a request for examination, discussion and solution of the respective issues at a session of the municipality Sakrebulo.

Study of collected information reveals that for the most part citizens use petitions not for amending certain types of legal regulations, but rather for performing various types of construction/installation works (road rehabilitation, water supply system, construction of sports halls and etc.).

From 22 July 2015 to 12 January 2017, 9 petitions were regisetered in Batumi Sakrebulo. Out of these, 5 petitions pertained to construction of various supporting structures on motoways, 2 petitions – change of the name to a street, awarding of a status of a street to existing road section. One petition – set up of a memorial of heroes. Only one of the petitions filed to the municipality concerned the amendment of legal regulations, namely prohibition of trade with pyrotechnics in the territory of Batumi. The given petitions were forwarded to Batumi City Hall and Sakrebulo Commission on Education, Culture, Tourism and Sport Issues.

In 2016, 4 petitions were registered in Keda municipality. The issues were considered by the bureau of Sakrebulo; for further approval, they were forwarded to Gamgebeli of Keda municipality.

Khulo municipality did not provide any information on the petitions filed in 2015. By 2016 data, eight petitions were submitted to Sakrebulo of Khulo Municipality. Two of them were declined due to substantive shortcomings.With respect to 4 petitions, Sakrebulo did not consider their implementation appropriate as the presented proposals were gradually carried out by Gamgeoba. Sakrebulo satisfied the remaining two applications: 1. Establishment and organization of the public holiday “Khuloeloba” and 2.  Inclusion of required measures in the budget for local road management in Khulo municipality. The project will be implemented once the proposed amendments are reflected in the local budget of 2017.

In 2016, 4 petitions were registered in Kobuleti Sakrebulo. By decision of Kobuleti Sakrebulo Bureau, the issues initiated by the above-mentioned petitions were forwarded to Gamgebeli for follow-up action.

In 2015-2016, 3 petitions were registered in Sakrebulo of Khelvachauri municipality. After reviewing the petition, a working group classified two of them as feasible.  After that, Khelvachauri Sakrebulo held discussions and adopted resolutions, whereby the petitions “dissolution of rocky ground and transfer of water pipes in village Kveda and Zeda Gantiadi of Makhinjauri aministrative unit” and “construction of sports gym in villages Maradidi and Dzablaveti of Kirnati administrative unit” were considered to be reasonable.  Gamgeoba of the municipality was requested to take necessary steps.  As for the third petition – “rehabilitation of internal roads in Ortabatumi administrative unit”, the working group considered further study of the petition inappropriate.

Shuakhevi Sakrebulo has provided no details on the number of petitions registered and considered in 2015-2016.

As Transparency International – Georgia believes, exercise of petition right is to some extent impeded by the clause, whereby a petition can be initiated by at least 1% of the constituents registered in the territory of a specific municipality. It is often difficult to mobilize large number of citizens in municipalities. In addition, an issue, which is a subject of a petition, may reflect interest of a smaller group, representing less than 1 percent of the total number of constituents. Therefore, it is crucial that the right of initiating a petition be vested in smaller group of constituents as well.

It is noteworthy that none of the municipalities of Adjara region employs electronic petition system. By  resolution of Sakrebulo issued on 20 March 2017, Zugdidi municipality started to elaborate on the issue. We think that other municipalities should also implement an identical system.

In parallel to electronic registration of petitions, focus should be made on the commitment envisaged by the Local Self-Government Code and resolution of the Government issued on 26 August 2013, whereby municipalities shall proactively publish petitions, within 10 days after their registration.

Report on the work performed by local officials

The law provides yet another mechanism for citizen participation – report on the work performed by Mayor/Gamgebeli of a municipality and Sakrebulo members. The Local Self-Government Code includes a general record on the obligation of local officials to present a report on their performance.  As the record runs, Gamgebeli/Mayor of the municipality and Sakrebulo members shall be obliged to hold public meetings at least once a year and present a report on performed work.

By the information received from Adjara municipalities, local officials do hold meetings and present reports to the public. In most cases, electronic versions of the reports are available on municipal websites.

As for specific municipalities, Batumi and Shuakhevi municipalities have not presented details on the public meetings and presentation of reports to citizens. Though, they sent us links to the electronic reports uploaded to their official website.

Khelvachauri Sakrebulo also provided links to the electorinc reports on their website. In this case, we could find only part of the reports. As for the public meetings, no such meetings were held by Kehlvachauro Sakrebuli in 2015-2016. According to the information provided by Khelvachauri Gamgeoba, it publicly presents its annual reports.

Kobuleti and Khulo Sakrebulo members pay field visits; they hold on-site meetings and inform the population about carried out activities. As Keda municipality informed us, Sakrebulo members actively meet with citizens, though, meetings are not dedicated to official presentation of performance reports. In contrast to Sakrebulo, Gamgeoba of Keda municipality presented its annual reports to the public for 2015 and 2016.

To ensure greater accountability on the part of local officials:

  • Frequency of reporting by public officials should be increased. A report should be presented in writing, in a pre-defined format. Announcement on scheduled presentation of a report should be made at least one week in advance to ensure that maximum number of citizens are given an opportunity to attend the meeting, hear the report and ask questions.
  • A report must be an official document, subject to public disclosure. In case of failure to hold meetings aimed at compiling, publishing and presenting the report to the population, disciplinary measures should be applied against the responsible persons from Gamgeoba/City Hall, Sakrebulo. For example, partial deduction from the positional remuneration or from the funds allocated for execution of powers;
  • Gamgebeli/Mayor of the municipality and Chairman of Sakrebulo should present a report to the population at least twice a year;  In the beginning of the year, constituents should be informed about the activities planned throughout the year (during the budget year), while at the end of the year (before approval of the budget for the next year) – a report on the work performed and fulfillment of the budget;
  • Upload of the reports to the official website of the municipality should be defined as a mandatory condition.

A council of civil advisors

Congruent to another amendment to the Local Self-Government Code, Gamgebeli/Mayor of a municipality has been awarded the right to establish a council of civil advisors. The council is a deliberative   body, which meets at least once in three months. It brings together entrepreneurial and non-entrepreneurial legal entities and representatives of the population.

Gamgebeli/Mayor of the municipality is obliged to discuss with the council:

  • Draft municipal budget prior to its presentation to Sakrebulo;
  • Documents related to the municipality spatial planning, proposals on giving names to the municipality’s geographical sites;
  • Drafts of various administrative-legal acts;
  • Infrastructural and social projects

At least once a year, Mayor/Gamgebeli shall present a report on performed work to the council.

As study of collected information has revealed, council of civil advisors is established and holds sessions in Shuakhevi, Khulo and Batumi municipalities.

A council of civil advisors has been established in Kobuleti and Keda municipalities; though not a single meeting has been held so far.

A council of civil advisors has not been established in Khelvachauri municipality.  As the local authorities explained, consultations are underway for development and approval of bylaws.

Congruent to the Local Self-Government Code, the number of representatives of one gender in a council of civil advisors shall be at least one third of the total number of its members. A council of civil advisors shall not be authorized if the given requirement has not been met.  The given requirement of the law is observed in all municipalities of Adjara.

Information on participation in Sakrebulo sessions

The majority of Adjara municipalities publish information about the upcoming Sakrebulo or Gamgeoba sessions on their official websites. Citizens have unlimited right to attend Sakrebulo sessions, but as most of the municipalities report, the given right is seldom exercised by citizens.

Most of the municipalities register citizens attending the sessions; expressed opinions and comments are reflected in respective minutes of the meeting. It is noteworthy that citizens have never applied to attend Sakrebulo and Sakrebulo council sessions in Khulo municipality.

Elaboration of the municipal budget draft

The effective law allows all stakeholders to get involved in elaboration of municipal budget draft; however, citizens rarely apply the given right.

In order to encourage citizens’ engagement in the process and ensure that the final document adopted by Sakrebulo covers needs of all groups, certain measures should be taken by the municipality:

In particular:

  • Prior to development of municipal budget draft, the local authorities should hold meetings in all settlements of the relevant territorial unit and examine existing problems and needs;
  • After elaboration of the budget draft, the local authorities should present it to the public, publish an electronic version and thus allow any interested person to scrutinize the draft and present substantiated comments or suggestions.

Conclusion

The given survey has illustrated that despite availability of citizens’ engagement mechanisms, involvement of citizens in the activities of the local government leaves room for improvement.

As “Transparency International - Georgia” believes, there are two major problems with respect to citizen participation in the exercise of local self-government: in many cases, citizens are not well aware about participation tools and opportunities; besides, existing mechanisms do not allow for effective participation. They do not guarantee settlement of identified problems by the population.

Some of the comments and recommendations presented in the report transcend the powers of the local authorities and fall within the competence of the Parliament of Georgia. However, Sakrebulo and Gamgeoba/City Hall of a municipality play an important role in encouraging civil participation. Focus should be made on their commitment to transparency and performance of activities in the best interestes of citizens.

Data by municipalities:

  1. City Hall/Gamgeoba

 

Has the General Assembly of a settlement been convened?

Is there a council of citivil advisors established?

Does the council of advisors hold sessions?

Does Gamgebeli/Mayor report to the public?

Batumi City Hall

No

Established

Yes

Has not provided information

Khelvachauri Gamgeoba

Held with respect to rural support program

Not established

-

Yes

Khulo Gamgeoba

Held with respect to rural support program

Established

Yes

Yes

Shuakhevi Gamgeoba

Held once

Established

Yes

Has not provided information

Keda Gamgeoba

Has not provided information

Established

No

Yes

Kobuleti Gamgeoba

Held for election of a Chair for the settlement

Established

No

Has not provided information

 

 

  1. Sakrebulo

 

Number of registered petitions

Do Sakrebulo members report to constituents?

Batumi Sakrebulo

9

Has not provided information

Khelvachauri Sakrebulo

3

Not Held

Khulo Sakrebulo

8

Yes

Shuakhevi Sakrebulo

Has not provided information

Has not provided information

Keda Sakrebulo

4

No

Kobuleti Sakrebulo

4

Yes

Adjara