Possible violation of the anti-corruption law at the Georgian Public Broadcaster
Transparency International Georgia continues to monitor the staffing policies and practices of the Georgian Public Broadcaster (GPB). On 29 September 2015 we published a new study where, among other issues, Kakhaber Sonishvili’s appointment to the position of a Deputy Director in charge of finances by GPB’s Director General Giorgi Baratashvili was discussed.
Having examined the matter closely, we found that Kakhaber Sonishvili’s appointment to the position at GPB contains possible signs of violation of Georgia’s anti-corruption legislation.
In an interview with TI Georgia, Giorgi Baratashvili stated that he personally chose the candidate for the Deputy Director’s position in charge of finances.
“I brought Kakha Sonishvili to the TV station as soon as I was appointed. He worked at the State Audit Office and I didn’t know him. We did some research and due to many positive recommendations we chose Kakha Sonishvili,” explained Baratashvili.
We asked the State Audit Office (SAO) to describe Sonishvili’s responsibilities when he worked for them.
According to public information received from the SAO, from 6 May 2010 to 20 September 2012 Kakhaber Sonishvili was indeed employed at the SAO as a senior auditor in the Department of Audit of Economic Activities. According to the SAO’s response, Sonishvili took part in auditing compliance of actions against pollution of the Black Sea, as well as auditing compliance of activities of the Georgian Public Broadcaster.
In TI Georgia’s view, the information received from the State Audit Office clearly demonstrates a violation of Article 65 of the Law on Public Service by Kakhaber Sonishvili.
Article 65 of the Law of Georgia on Public Service outlines limitations to the employment of former public officials -- for 3 years after his/her dismissal, a civil servant cannot be employed at a public organization or a commercial entity that was under his/her regular supervision during the previous 3 years as part of his/her official duties. According to Paragraph 2 of Article 6 of Law of Georgia on Conflict of Interests and Corruption in Public Office, supervision as part of official duties can be defined as the power of a public official, in regards to issued acts or actions, to publish written instructions to eliminate shortcomings in the published act or action, to stop implementation of the act or action, or to repeal the act.
According to the Law of Georgia on the State Audit Office, an audit of compliance includes investigation of legality and the aims of activities of the audit subject, evaluation, and publishing of an appropriate audit report. According to Article 24 of the same law, the State Audit Office can develop recommendations in regards to the audit results, that can be presented to the audit subject along with the audit report. The State Audit Service should be notified about the actions taken based on its recommendations within one month, if another time limit is not determined by the State Audit Service.
Therefore, Kakhaber Sonishvili, while auditing the Georgian Public Broadcaster for compliance, was engaged in the systematic supervision of the TV station as part of his official duties, and his appointment to the position of Deputy Director in charge of finances at the Georgian Public Broadcaster is a clear example of a ‘revolving door’ policy, which is a violation of Article 64 of the Law on Public Service.
TI Georgia has discussed the issue of the ‘revolving door’ several times before. The term ‘revolving door’ refers to a rotation of public officials between the public and private sectors or between a supervisory body and an entity under its supervision, which creates risks of a conflict of interests and corruption. Article 65 of the Law on Public Service aims to prevent these risks, and we believe it has been violated in this case.
TI Georgia calls on the Georgian Public Broadcaster to study the issue of a possible violation of the Law on Public Service by the Deputy Director in charge of finances Kakhaber Sonishvili, to take appropriate steps, and to answer these questions in a documented manner.
On the other hand, we believe, the case of Kakhaber Sonishvili once again demonstrates the challenges of effective implementation of the anti-corruption legislation in Georgia. TI Georgia believes that the creation of an independent anti-corruption agency, which would be able to study similar cases and react to them, is a solution to this problem. A draft legislative package with this recommendation has already been presented by TI Georgia to the Parliament of Georgia.