New candidates for GNCC leadership position
The President and the government have agreed on three candidates for a vacant seat in the 5-member leadership of the Georgian National Communication Commission (GNCC), the telecom and broadcasting regulator. The position has been vacant since former Chairman of the GNCC, Irakli Chikovani, resigned in July 2013.
23 people have applied for the vacancy, which is among the best paid positions in the public sector, with an annual salary plus bonus of around GEL 250,000 per year. The three shortlisted candidates are Vakhtang Abashidze, Khatuna Maisashvili, and Vakhtang Khundadze, all three have a background in journalism or communications.
TI Georgia conducted a small public record background research on the shortlisted candidates. In terms of potential conflicts of interests, Vakhtang Abashidze, has been working for Silknet, the largest internet service provider, and, if elected, might be well advised to refrain from voting on decisions that are directly related to the company. Another candidate, Khatuna Maisashvili, is apparently working for the Prime Minister’s office, which might raise questions about her independence from the executive.
All three candidates on the shortlist have a background in communication or journalism of some sort, while a number of candidates who had a strong professional background in the private sector, including some with a background in financing, did not make the shortlist.
Vakhtang Abashidze was the head of President Eduard Shevardnadze’s press office (1995-2000) and then served as the chairperson of the Georgian National Communication Commission (GNCC) from 2000 to 2004. Abashidze resigned from the post in June 2004. He then worked as a consultant for the telephone company United Telecom Georgia, and continued working for the company after it became Silknet in 2010. Most recently, he has overseen Silknet’s procurement division, he also leads the division dealing with operators.
Abashidze is the director and a share holder (50%) of the financial consulting firm Ltd Optima Management and holds 30% of the printing house Ltd Degaprint+. He holds a degree in journalism from Tbilisi State University.
His brother Zurab Abashidze, a former Georgian ambassador to Moscow (2000 to 2004) in 2012 was appointed as the government’s Special Envoy for Relations with Russia by Bidzina Ivanishvili, reporting directly to the Prime Minister.
Khatuna Maisashvili is an invited professor of journalism at Tbilisi State University. She holds a Phd in Mass Communication from Ilia State University and is an author of several academic publications. She formerly was a visiting journalism fellow at the De Walles Centre for Journalism and Communication Policy, Duke University (USA), and is one of the founders and shareholders of the newspapers “7 dge” (7 days) and “Akhali 7 Dghe” (New 7 days), which are now published online.
In her letter addressing the President, she writes that she is not a public official. According to her submitted CV, she has worked as an adviser and analyst at the State Chancellery since December 2012 (which appears to be mid-level civil service positions that do not carry the status of a public official).
Vakhtang Khundadze is a former professor at Tbilisi State University’s journalism department. Khundadze held various reporting and editing positions, including as head of department at the newspaper Young Communist (1973-78), and with the state-owned Georgian TV and Radio (1979-1994 and 2001-2004), where we was editor and deputy director. From 2008 to 2010, Khundadze was the head of the morning program at the Patriarchate’s TV station - Ertsulovneba.
Most recently, he has managed a website on Georgian architectural monuments, www.geoah.ge, owned by LLC Golden Aries XXI, of which Khundadze is a 25% shareholder. He is also a founding member and president of the NGO Georgian Teleakademy, which has the stated aim of supporting journalistic professionalism.
The candidates who were not shortlisted
Boris Janjalia – lawyer, corporate governance officer at International Finance Corporation (IFC),
Giorgi Khonelia – financial director at internet provider Delta Net,
Davit Tutberidze – shareholder and a general director at telecom operator Caucasus Digital Network,
Teimuraz Berianidze – assisting professor of communication at Georgia’s Technical University, was an invited expert at parliamentary ad-hoc commission investigating GNCC,
Davit Tsivtsivadze – head of the information and telecommunication technology department at Georgian Railway,
Vakhtang Gegelia – deputy director at LLC Trans Caucasus Terminals, Georgian Railway, former vice-president of the olympic committee,
Tariel Gvalia – partner and manager at the consulting firm Velstand and Erfolg,
Mamuka Lobzhanidze – lawyer, director at the advertising company P-L Exclusive,
Davit Tsintsadze – filmmaker and lawyer, former editor in chief of Metekhi Media Holding,
Bezhan Kharebashvili – head of the regional unit at Bank Republic,
Archil Dzidziguri – lawyer, the protocol division at the Ministry of Culture,
Giorgi Natchkebia – lawyer, director at the law firm Davit Todradze & Partners, member of the political party - Georgian Dream, Majoritarian candidate for 2012 parliamentary elections and head of Margvelashili election headquarters in Tsalenjikha,
Giorgi Leonidze – PhD in philology, lawyer and journalist, member of international TV-Radio academy, PR coordinator at the investment company LLC Mailin Group,
Sophio Khorguani – lawyer, former deputy Public Defender and former member of the political council of the opposition Georgian Party, currently director of the advertising company 7Z,
Mikheil Gotoshia – former head of technical and numeration management departments at GNCC, currently director at internet provider LLC Alternet,
Avtandil Tsagareishvili – communication specialist, former director general at JSC Info Georgia XXI, operating the phone information service 09,
Natia Kuprashvili – journalist, invited lecturer at Tbilisi State University’s journalism department, head of the Georgian Association of Regional Broadcasters (GARB), member of the Coalition for Media Advocacy,
Lia Mukhashavria – human rights lawyer, holds an LLM from Temple law school, Philadelphia, former candidate for Public Defender’s position, since 2014 member of the pardoning commission,
Avtandil Kakhniashvili – professor of law at the university European Academy, author of 43 academic publications.
The next steps
The President now has to submit these shortlisted candidates to the Parliament, which then within two weeks will have to elect one of the candidates to join the 5-member Board of the telecom and broadcasting regulator. The last member who joined GNNC in January was Kakha Bekauri, former head of TV9, who has previously worked in the management of several broadcasters.
This is the fourth attempt for the Parliament to fill one vacant top-level positions at the GNCC. Since fall, stricter criteria (which TI Georgia had advocated for) are now in place for new Commissioners – they have to have ten years of work experience, including three years in a leadership position, and hold an MA or equivalent degree in a field relevant to the work of the regulator, such as economy, law, business administration, public administration, telecommunication or journalism.
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