Is MP Eka Beselia interfering with exclusive authorities of the city of Poti?
Questions have arisen after the 1 October 2012 parliamentary elections, regarding the involvement of the majoritarian representative of Poti district, in the local affairs of the city. Member of the Georgian Dream party and Chair of the Parliamentary Committee for Human Rights and Civil Integration, Eka Beselia, has been accused of nepotism and abuse of power. Most active in this respect is the regional online edition of TSpress, which has released several publications about the majoritarian MP's activities.
Transparency International Georgia (TI Georgia) found it necessary to ask questions around the MP’s conduct, to Eka Beselia herself, in order to find out whether the member of the Georgian Dream party abuses her powers or not.
Appointment of the new Poti Mayor
On 11 January 2013 the Poti Sakrebulo elected Davit Sarsania as the new Mayor. Davit Sarsania did not deny to the local media that his nomination was acceptable to Eka Beselia; moreover, he even named himself as the favorite to the majoritarian MP. The MP, herself, stated in the interview: “Sarsania was elected by the assembly, where the representatives of United National Movement constituted the majority. How could I have appointed Sarsania?" Thus Beselia has denied the accusation, claiming that her active involvement in Sarsania's election was related only to the request made to then Chair of the Sakrebulo, Ivane Saghinadze, about announcing the competition for the Mayor's vacant position. "I said it would be democratic for the Sakrebulo to announce the competition and appoint the Mayor through the competition. This was the only request that I made at the request of certain group of voters," Eka Beselia told the representative of TI Georgia, adding immediately that she did not support any of the candidates.
As for the voluntary abandonment of office by the former Chairman of the Sakrebulo, Ivane Saghinadze, Beselia states that this fact had nothing to do with the election of the new Mayor. Saghinadze himself told the media that he had made the decision due to the existing situation in Poti. "Namely, we could not appoint the Mayor. Therefore, in light of the new reality, in order to support the city's development and avoid problems, I have decided to resign," Saghinadze told journalists on 6 December 2012, when leaving the post.
If Saghinadze's resignation had nothing to do with the election approval of the new Mayor, then it remains unclear as to why it was impossible to elect the new Mayor during Saghinadze's chairmanship of the Sakrebulo.
Appointment of the New Police Chief in Poti
Former Poti Police Chief, Dimitry Shengelia, was dismissed from service at the end of November 2012. Poti majoritarian MP has not concealed that numerous citizens had complained to her about Shengelia. Further, Beselia stated publicly that she had discussed Shengelia's dismissal with the representatives of a relevant agency. As a result, while Shengelia was dismissed from service, the Ministry of Interior has filled the vacant position with Zurab Alasania, the relative of the majoritarian MP. In an interview with the representative of TI Georgia, Eka Beselia has confirmed that she had recommended Alasania to the Ministry; however, based on his competence and personal qualities and not kinship. "When I was asked about this person, I characterized him very boldly, that he's a professional, decent and experienced person; whom has held various positions within the system, but not as the Police Chief, more in terms of the Security Police. This is probably one of the best cadres" - Beselia said in an interview with the organization's representative.
As for Dimitry Shengelia, according to Beselia, he is still employed within the Ministry of Interior, in the Border Police, which does not sit well with the majoritarian MP: "Should I be so influential to appoint and dismiss people according to my desires, I demand the dismissal of this person for a very long time now, because there are lots of claims against him" - Eka Beselia said.
Other Changes in Personnel
Another claim made towards Eka Beselia, concerned the appointment of the member of her campaign office - Levan Chochia. According to the edition TSpress, Chochia has occupied one of the highest positions within the Revenue Service. Beselia has stated in an interview with TI Georgia that her campaign office was headed not by Chochia but Gelashvili, who had nothing to do with Poti previously. As for Chochia, according to Beselia, the former member of the campaign office was appointed not in the Revenue Service but holds one of non-managerial positions in the Economic Zone. A representative of TI Georgia tried to clarify whether Chochia was indeed employed by this agency, but we were told by the Poti Customs Clearance Economic Zone to approach the Public Relations Department of the Revenue Service for a response.
Relations of the Mayor and Majoritarian MP with Local Media
On April 24, the edition TSpress published the article entitled "Poti Mayor and Majoritarian MP Refuse to Comment for TSpress". The article states that the Poti majoritarian MP, Eka Beselia, does not comment for the edition, confirmed by the released video. As for the Poti Mayor, Davit Sarsania, in a phone conversation, he tells the edition's journalist that he enjoys the right not to respond to a journalist's questions at all. On its part, the edition alleges that public officials are irritated due to several articles concerning the activities of Eka Beselia and Davit Sarsania.
We believe that the local self-governments should pursue the staff policies independently, with observance of relevant laws, which implies the recruitment of the new personnel only through the Selection and Certification Commission - with observance of an open and transparent competition rules.
Public officials should be appointed only pursuant to the procedures set by the Law of Georgia on Public Service. Importantly, throughout the competitions, politicians should refrain from making supportive statements-i.e. in the case of the Poti Mayor election. Such statements may affect the final decision-making and competition results.
As a first priority, during the selection of public officials, their experience, qualifications and relevance with the vacant position should be taken into account. Whereas, the political officials should issue recommendations only if this is an additional requirement of a vacant position. Verbal recommendations made by state-political officials for candidates may foster nepotism and exert indirect influence on the state agencies.
As for the relations of several Poti officials with the media, we believe they should treat the requests of media representatives with due attention and respond to questions of interest to the public, however, unacceptable such questions may be for them. On their part, journalists are also obliged to publish only confirmed and repeatedly verified information. Therefore, public officials should be interested in responding to journalists correctly, as the questions may be aiming to verify certain information.