Problems in the infrastructural policy of the Kutaisi City Hall
Infrastructural works underway in the city of Kutaisi, as well as throughout the country, are an object of high interest to TI Georgia. For this reason, on the initiative of our organization, a Web portal www.chemikucha.ge was created which enables citizens living in Tbilisi, Kutaisi, Batumi, and Zugdidi to photograph infrastructural problems they regard important and upload the photos to the website. Information about concrete problems is automatically sent to the relevant municipal services. The idea implies maximum observance of the principles of accountability and transparency, as, according to a preliminary agreement TI Georgia has reached with local self-government bodies, they are obligated to eliminate the problems reflected on the portal in a timely manner.
The present study deals with the results of the operation of the www.chemikucha.ge Web portal in the city of Kutaisi during the years 2014-15, aspects of the infrastructural policy of the self-government body of Kutaisi, proper coordination between the self-government body and the United Water Supply Company of Georgia in the process of performance of infrastructural works, and transparency of this process.
Notifications on www.chemikucha.ge that were left without a response
On the basis of analysis of information we requested from the Kutaisi City Hall and the data on the www.chemikucha.ge website, as well as frequent on-site visual inspections and examination of information received from the United Water Supply Company of Georgia, we have identified the following types of problems:
According to the data of www.chemikucha.ge, the population of Kutaisi have not sent many notifications, although all the 17 notifications, most of which were sent as early as in 2014, are yet to be responded to. Among these, 9 notifications concern the laying of a road surface, 4 pertain to installation of outdoor lighting, and 5 are related to restoration of damaged sewage and water supply pipes. It should be noted that Kutaisi in the only city among the four cities involved in the “Fix my street” project that has zero response rate to citizens’ applications on the part of municipal bodies.
Deficiencies in the infrastructural policy of the Kutaisi City Hall
- In spite of a written application of TI Georgia, the self-government body failed to explain whether relevant project and cost estimation documentation had been enclosed with the official application by which the City Hall requested funds from the Fund for Projects to be Implemented in the Regions of Georgia. Accordingly, it is unknown whether or not such documentation was prepared. It is also unclear on what basis the municipal services calculated the funds necessary for the performance of works during the year. Unfortunately, the self-government body also failed to provide us with protocols on meetings with the population. Therefore, it is unclear how the self-government body determines the order of priorities of infrastructural works planned for the coming year.
- In accordance with Decree No. 98 of the City Council of Kutaisi of December 24, 2014, the City Council requested GEL 340,060 from the Fund for Projects to be Implemented in the Regions for the rehabilitation works of a storm water drainage network. According to the same decree, the project and cost estimation documentation for laying a road surface on some streets also includes installation of a storm water drainage network, while the corresponding documentation for other streets only envisages laying of a road surface. It is also worth noting that the funds necessary for the rehabilitation of storm water drainage systems were requested as a lump sum, which makes it impossible to monitor the works. Unlike the programs for laying a road surface on city streets, which include 47 streets, the annex to the City Council’s Decree No. 98 does not say on which streets it is planned to improve/install storm water drainage systems and what part of the total sum is to be spent on each street. The same is true for the program of arrangement of yards of apartment buildings for which GEL 1,000,000 was allocated. GEL 816,206 was allocated for the rehabilitation of facades of multi-storey buildings, and GEL 400,000 was allotted for the arrangement of “islands” for regulation of vehicle traffic.
- As the local self-government body has explained, road improvement works have been suspended on the streets where underground communications system (water supply and sewage pipes) was out of order. Accordingly, dug-out streets and unfinished road improvement works remain a problem for the population.
- In 2015, the Kutaisi City Hall allocated a total of GEL 27,722,100 for infrastructural projects, of which the City Hall received GEL 15,000,001 from the Fund for Projects to be Implemented in the Regions. According to a letter we received from the City Hall, in October 2015 infrastructural works with a value of GEL 13,580,300 were still underway. It is incomprehensible why the funds were not spent till the last quarter of the year, as, at this time, unfavorable climate conditions add to other hindering circumstances that interfere with quality and timely performance of infrastructural works.
- According to the information provided by the Kutaisi City Hall, its relevant service received 294 project and cost estimation documents through a competition by the end of 2015, which included 67 projects related to the improvement of road infrastructure and 38 projects pertaining to installation of a storm water drainage network together with laying a road surface. It is unclear how many of these projects were planned to be implemented in 2015. According to the information on the City Hall’s website, in 2016 the city requested funds for the rehabilitation of road infrastructure of 124 additional streets from the Fund for Projects to be Implemented in the Regions, which considerably exceeds the number of infrastructural projects prepared in the relevant service.
Insufficient coordination between the City Hall and the United Water Supply Company
The study has put a particular emphasis on the problem of insufficient coordination between the local authorities of Kutaisi and state-owned companies working on infrastructural issues, which was mainly manifested in incoherent performance of works on concrete streets. For example:
- According to the information provided by the United Water Supply Company on November 19, 2015, at turn 1 of Freedom Street and on Namgaladze and Kutateli streets, the works of installation of water supply network were completed and the road surface would be restored within two months, while the works at turn 1 of Kibuli Street and on Gaponov Street were under way and would be completed within a month. Interestingly, all the aforementioned streets are indicated in the annex provided by the City Hall which it sent to the Fund for Projects to be Implemented in the Regions to obtain funding.
- The United Water Supply Company will complete the rehabilitation works of water supply pipelines in the following areas within a period from one to two and a half months: Education Turn 5, the streets of Rionhesi, Brosse, Paliashvili (including turns 1 and 3), Lermontov, Varlamishvili, and St. Nino; the lane connecting the Vazha-Pshavela and Tetramitsa reservoirs; the streets of Gugunava, Tabukashvili, Sulkhan Saba, and Shevchenko. However, the funds requested by the Kutaisi City Hall from the Fund for Projects to be Implemented in the Regions for 2016 only envisage Brosse Street.
- In 2015, the City Hall requested funds for restoring the road surface on concrete streets, and in 2016 – for the renovation of concrete dead ends of the same streets. The 2016 request that was sent to the Fund for Projects to be Implemented in the Regions includes cases where funds required for main streets and those required for dead ends adjacent to them are requested in separate lots; accordingly, competitions for preparing the project documentation also have to be announced, or have been announced, separately.
- The local budget of 2015 allocated more than half a million lari for installation and rehabilitation of water supply and sewage systems, whereas the aforementioned constitutes a direct obligation of the United Water Supply Company of Georgia. Kutaisi also received a transfer of 100 million euros from the European Investment Bank for full rehabilitation of the waste water processing system. Despite these circumstances, the Kutaisi City Hall spent additional money from local funds which could have been allocated for other important infrastructural works.
- When requesting funds from the Fund for Projects to be Implemented in the Regions, the local authorities should have prepared project and cost estimation documentation, which will ensure accurate calculation of required funds and will not endanger their timely spending.
- The City Hall, with maximum use of resources of its territorial bodies of governance, should hold systematic meetings with the population while planning infrastructural works and reflect the relevant position of citizens in concrete infrastructural plans.
- The City Hall should indicate the names of concrete streets when requesting funds from the Fund for Projects to be Implemented in the Regions.
- Competitions for compiling project and cost estimation documentation for restoration of streets and storm water drainage systems should be announced in one lot, which will enable the self-government body to avoid untargeted expenses.
- The City Hall should communicate closely with the United Water Supply Company, so that the works of installation of water supply system and the laying of road surface are carried out in a coordinated manner.
- The self-government body of the city should start preparing recommendations for the performance of works with a value of EUR 100,000,000 (although, according to representatives of the Kutaisi City Hall, the order of priorities of the streets is determined by the United Water Supply Company in the framework of the project, TI Georgia believes that the involvement of the local self-government is critical in this area).
- Performance of infrastructural works should be scheduled in such a period of the year when climate conditions will not interfere with their progress or with their quality and appropriate results.
- The local authorities should respond to problems uploaded to the www.chemikucha.ge Web portal actively and in a timely manner and periodically renew the system in the framework of the memorandum concluded between TI Georgia and the Kutaisi City Hall. It is important that the City Hall learn from the practice of other cities involved in the project, especially Tbilisi that has the highest rate of response to applications.
- The local self-government should refrain from financing infrastructural works that the State has delegated to other agencies and state-owned companies. In this way, the local government will be able to avoid untargeted spending and to distribute these funds to other important directions.