A More Independent and Effective Chamber of Control?
The Georgian Chamber of Control (CoC) has stepped into the spotlight lately through several recent high-profile inquiries. This is an encouraging show of institutional strength, but it remains to be seen whether the recent positive trends in the agency’s work will persist in the long run; we hope that they will. The CoC is Georgia’s supreme audit institution and has a constitutional responsibility to ensure (through regular audits) that state funds are spent efficiently and according to the legal requirements. The CoC is accountable to Parliament and can therefore be used by the legislature to oversee the executive branch. The effectiveness of the CoC at performing this role has traditionally been undermined by structural weaknesses, such as the lack of independence and the shortage of employees capable of using modern auditing techniques. The CoC's current leadership has tried since 2008 to improve its capacity, and lately, there have been some encouraging signs of progress. First, in mid-September, the CoC released the results of an audit of the Ministry of Health, which revealed major procurement violations. The Prosecutor’s Office brought criminal charges against the deputy health minister based on the audit. A week later, the CoC published findings regarding procurement violations in the Finance Ministry which implicated, once again, a deputy minister. These two cases are a marked improvement over a 2007 inquiry into the Education Ministry, where the CoC’s findings were ignored and many auditors involved were fired. An independent and strong CoC is extremely important for Georgia. The institution can greatly improve the government's financial management and help it achieve its publicly-declared goal of reducing administrative costs. In the Ministry of Health case alone, the state’s losses from mishandled procurement amounted to almost GEL 1,8 million (approximately USD 1 million). Both cases mentioned here show that corruption among the political elite still exists in Georgia, and that Georgian taxpayer’s money is lost and wasted because of it. We at TI Georgia applaud the CoC's recent efforts, and hope they will continue—if Georgia is to make further progress in combating corruption, the CoC will need to keep up the good work.