Insufficiently used mechanisms of citizens’ involvement in the municipalities of Imereti
In the years 2017-2019, the municipalities of Imereti used the mechanisms of citizens’ involvement more than in 2015-2016, although the present situation still needs to be improved. The study conducted by TI Georgia makes it clear that more involvement of citizens in the work of local self-government bodies is interfered with by the existing legislation as well as by failure of municipalities to properly inform citizens about the use of mechanisms of involvement.
TI Georgia has requested public information from the city councils (Sakrebulos) and city halls of 12 municipalities of Imereti, in order to ascertain the extent to which local residents are involved in decision-making, whether elected and appointed officials report to citizens, and whether the mechanisms of citizens’ involvement provided for by the Self-Government Code of Georgia are effective.
The organization published a similar study on the municipalities of Imereti – which analyzed the practice of 2016-2017 – in April 2017.
This time, we are presenting an overview of the situation from April 2017 up to April 2019:
- General assemblies of settlements were held in all the municipalities of Imereti except Kutaisi, Chiatura, Terjola, and Tskaltubo.
- All the municipalities of Imereti have created a deliberative body of the mayor – the Council of Advisers, although none of the current councils, expect that of Kutaisi, observes the requirement of law regarding periodic meetings of the council.
- A total of 4 petitions were registered in the municipalities of Chiatura, Samtredia, Vani, and Kharagauli during the reporting period.
- Citizens didn’t attend the sessions of the city councils of Vani, Terjola, and Bagdati during 2017-2019, while in the other municipalities they attended the sessions, albeit rarely.
- During 2017-2019, members of the city councils held meetings with constituents in all the municipalities of Imereti expect Terjola, Kharagauli, and Khoni.
- The mayors of all the municipalities of Imereti, expect those of Chiatura and Samtredia, reported to the population.
The use of mechanisms of citizens’ involvement in the municipalities of Imereti from April 2017 up to April 2019:
General assembly of a settlement
According to the Local Self-Government Code, the population of a village/small town/city has the right to hold a general assembly of the settlement. A general assembly of a settlement is a form of citizens’ participation in the self-organization of the population of a village/small town/city and in the exercise of local self-government which ensures active engagement of the constituents registered in the relevant settlement in the discussion and resolution of issues that are important to that settlement and municipality and in the process of initiation of the said issues before the municipal bodies.
From April 2017 up to April 2019, not a single general assembly was held in the municipalities of Kutaisi, Chiatura, Terjola, and Tskaltubo.
In the municipalities of Vani, Sachkhere, Tkibuli, Bagdati, Zestaponi, and Khoni, a general assembly was held in almost all the villages and communities to select projects to be funded by the Village Support Program in 2018. However, according to the minutes of the general assemblies, in some cases, the assemblies were attended by fewer than 20% of constituents.
In Kharagauli, a general assembly was held once, with the aim of drafting a petition regarding the rehabilitation of a segment of a road in the village of Ghoresha and sending it to the City Council.
In the municipality of Samtredia, a general assembly was held twice – in the villages of Nabakevi and Chkhenishi.
At least 1% of the constituents registered in the territory of a municipality and a general assembly of a settlement may file a petition in the city council. The following documents may 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 problems common to a municipality and/or to a settlement, a request for the examination, consideration and resolution of respective issues at a session of the city council.
From April 2017 up to April 2019, not a single petition was registered in the city councils of Kutaisi, Terjola, Sachkhere, Tskaltubo, Tkibuli, Bagdati, Zestaponi, and Khoni.
A total of 4 petitions were prepared throughout Imereti during the reporting period:
- At the City Council of Chiatura, a draft normative act on the approval of the local environmental action plan of the Municipality of Chiatura was registered in the form of a petition. The City Council of Chiatura considered the said petition on December 7, 2018, and adopted a decree on its approval on the same day.
- On March 29, 2017, the City Council of Samtredia registered a petition of the general assembly of an administrative unit of Nabakevi – the village of Chkhenishi. The population of the village demanded the rehabilitation of an old irrigation/drainage canal. On May 16 of the same year, the City Council of Samtredia adopted a decree on the rehabilitation of the old irrigation/drainage canal in the village of Chkhenishi.
- On May 19, 2017, the City Council of Vani registered a petition of the general assembly of the Salkhino Community. The petition dealt with a project/proposal on the opening of a mediatheka (modern library) in the former administration building in the center of the village of Salkhino, which was aimed at supporting the youth policy at the local level. The issue was referred to the Commission on Property Management, Economic Issues and Infrastructure of the City Council of Vani so that the Commission would study the issue and submit a relevant report. However, the Commission has yet to submit its report to the City Council.
- The City Council of Kharagauli admitted a petition that was based on a decision of the general assembly of the village of Ghoresha of May 17, 2017. The petition requested the examination, consideration, and taking a decision on the project concerning the rehabilitation of a 150 meter segment of the road to the cemetery of the Kvadura neighborhood of the village of Ghoresha and making a fence of the cemetery.
Council of civil advisors
According to the Local Self-Government Code, a council of civil advisors is a deliberative body of the head of a municipal administration/mayor. A council of civil advisors is composed of representatives of entrepreneurial legal entities, NGOs, and the population of a municipality. A council of civil advisors is composed of at least 10 members, and its composition and statute is approved by the head of a municipal administration/mayor. The number of representatives of one gender in a council of civil advisors must not be fewer than one third of the total number of its members. A council of civil advisors is not authorized if the requirement of this paragraph has not been met. A council of civil advisors meets at least once in every three months, and decisions of the council are recorded in the minutes of the session.
According to the information we have received, councils of civil advisors have been created in all the municipalities of Imereti.
The gender balance is observed in the councils of all the municipalities of Imereti, but none of the existing councils observe the statutory requirement regarding periodic meetings of the council (the council of civil advisors is obliged to meet at least once in every three months). In the municipalities of Vani and Zestaponi, the councils of advisors have been created, but they have not held meetings, while the councils in Chiatura and Kharagauli only met once during the reporting period.
Meetings with/reporting to constituents
Other forms of involvement include meetings of members of city councils with constituents and reporting about activities carried out by heads of municipal administrations/mayors and members of city councils. The Local Self-Government Code makes members of city councils obliged to meet with their constituents at least once a year.
In the years 2017-2019, members of city councils held meetings with constituents in all the municipalities of Imereti. The on-site meetings involved taking the relevant minutes, except for the municipalities of Terjola, Kharagauli and Khoni, where the minutes were not taken at the time of the on-site meetings.
The majority of the municipalities of Imereti have provided us with the minutes taken during the on-site meetings with the population, and the minutes reflect the topics of the meetings and the problems raised more or less accurately.
Almost all the mayors of the municipalities of Imereti reported to the population, except for the mayors of Chiatura and Samtredia. In the case of Chiatura, the mayor was unable to report because he was replaced. As for Samtredia, information about implemented projects is disseminated by TV and the Internet.
Conclusion and recommendations
In the opinion of TI Georgia, there are two problems in terms of citizens’ involvement in the activity of local self-government bodies: failure of municipalities to properly inform citizens about the forms and mechanisms of involvement and the low effectiveness of the said forms and mechanisms themselves. Besides, the information provided by the municipalities, except petitions, does not make it possible to conduct a full analysis of the needs identified by the population and of how local self-government bodies have responded to these needs. In addition:
- In the opinion of TI Georgia, two requirements established for convening a general assembly of a settlement – first, that a demand to convene an assembly is to be confirmed by the signatures of 5% of the constituents and, second, that the assembly is only authorized if it’s attended by not fewer than 20% of constituents – significantly complicate the possibility of convening and holding such an assembly, in some settlements due to a large number of constituents and in some villages because 20% of registered constituents may not be living in their places of registration, and/or also because the interest of a small group of citizens in convening an assembly may not coincide with the interests of 20% of the constituents. For this reason, we think that smaller groups of constituents should also be given an opportunity to convene a general assembly of a settlement.
- Due to the fact that, from the viewpoint of competences and powers, the convention of a general assembly does not provide a guarantee of resolution of a problem identified by the population (an assembly’s appeal to a municipality only has the character of a recommendation), there is a risk that convention of an assembly may be further complicated due to the local population’s lack of interest. In order to increase the motivation to convene a general assembly of a settlement, it is important that local self-government bodies properly study the decisions taken at the assembly and do their best to take it into consideration when spending the budget.
- The applicable legislation allows local self-government bodies to decrease the required number of signatories of a petition to any number they wish. The Self-Government Code sets the minimum required number of signatories at 1%, a requirement that might be difficult to fulfill due to a large number of citizens in some municipalities. For this reason, city councils should decrease the required number of signatories of a petition and extend the opportunity to initiate draft decrees of city councils by means of a petition to smaller groups of constituents.
- It is important that members of city councils take minutes of their meetings with constituents; this obligation should also be included in the regulations of the city councils. The minutes should include information on the member of the city council, the time and place of the meeting, the issues discussed, the constituents taking part in the meeting, and the opinions expressed by the constituents. The information included in the minutes may also be used when a city hall considers the draft budget and/or when a city council provides observations and recommendations about the budget. It is also important that the minutes be signed not only by the member of the city council but also the constituents taking part in the meeting, which will confirm that the meeting really took place as well as the authenticity of the information included in the minutes.
 Article 861 of the Organic Law of Georgia – Local Self-Government Code