Recommendations for 2014 Draft Budget of Zugdidi Municipality
The initial discussion on the 2014 budget of Zugdidi municipality was held in its local council on 18 November 2013. According to the draft budget, the revenues for 2014 are set at 22 715 000 GEL. The overall budget has increased by almost 2 million GEL compared with the previous year. However, there has been no substantial changes to the programmatic part of the budget.
Transparency International Georgia published a statement (in Georgian) on 26 November positively evaluating the fact that the municipality had taken into consideration the majority of recommendations made by the TI. However, the TI has a number of remarks regarding the 2014 budget. They are as follows:
- According to the draft budget, one million 100 thousand GEL has been allocated for supporting and financing the football. The large portion of these funds – 800 thousand GEL – will be provided to finance the football club “Zugdidi”, owned by the municipality. We think such expenses are not reasonable. Financing the football team is not the exclusive duty of the municipality, especially, no study has been undertaken providing what potential results will be brought about by such increase of the investments. Additionally, considering the municipality’s scanty resources, it would be better if the said funds are directed at resolving necessary economic needs of the local inhabitants. However, if the development of football is a public demand, it would be desirable that Zugdidi municipality continued financing the NPO “Center for Development of Football and Youth” in the usual manner.
- Despite the existence of such an acute problem, the 2014 Zugdidi municipality budget does not envisage any measure for resolving the dire situation at the landfill of Tsaishi. The TI published the research report (in Georgian) entitled “Problems and Prospects of Waste-management in Zugdidi Municipality” in summer of 2013. It describes with detail the problems caused by the non-systematized landfill. It is an open-type landfill and it is not supplied with the environment-friendly infrastructure. The standards for environmental protection are fully ignored as well. This daily creates direct risks for lives and health of Tsaishi inhabitants. We think that Zugdidi municipality should include finances for basic measures, which will at least partially reduce the existing risks, in the 2014 budget. It is inadmissible to absolutely ignore this issue.
- The budget provides only 30 thousand GEL for compensation of damage caused by disasters. Considering the experience of the current year, we think that the funding of this program should be more solid. Multiple villages of Zugdidi municipality were significantly damaged by floods and landslides for multiple times in 2013. The government allocated aid efforts funds after assessing the amount of the damage and provided compensation to a part of the population. However, the problem remains pressing and the local municipality should allocate more resources to timely assist the affected families.
- Zugdidi municipality is planning to spend 90 thousand GEL for the program “Protection and rehabilitation of the persons with disabilities” in 2014. There are up to 450 people with disabilities in Zugdidi (they move around with wheelchairs). The infrastructure for their free movement is nonexistent. It is impossible to enter the buildings of the municipality and the local council by a wheelchair. There is a pathway at the entrance but it does not comply with the necessary standards. The problem is far worse at other public agencies. We think that Zugdidi municipality should make efforts to create infrastructure for free movement of persons with disabilities at least in the center of Zugdidi.
- The budget also does not include the measures for “Rehabilitation of the water [supply] system” and “Construction and rehabilitation of the sewage system.” Significant problems exist in the municipality in both areas.
- Another recommendation concerns with social protection of war veterans. 40 thousand GEL is allocated for this in 2013. As it turns out, only veterans of the World War II are the beneficiaries of this program. We think that the program should extend to the families whose members lost their lives and soldiers who were affected during the wars in Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Naturally, such decision will increase the expenses. However, it is extremely important that the mentioned group of people receive assistance not only from the Ministry of Defense, but also from the local municipality.
- In the course of 2013, the bonuses were given to the staff of the municipality and local council of Zugdidi for five times. In all five instances, the bonus was coincided with religious holidays. The bonuses were given to the staff of the municipality and local council of Zugdidi in violation of the law - without a corresponding justification; even a verbal justification has not been made as to for what merits the civil servants received the bonuses, often, of the amount of the salaries; also, the principle related to the number of bonuses is also not transparent; Subsequently, we recommend Zugdidi local council, together with the municipality, to create and determine the rules, methodology and amounts of giving bonuses and salary benefits already in the current year, so that the local council will have the procedure adopted for the new budgetary year. This will be the first, positive precedent on the local municipal level in Georgia and it will significantly foster the economy of the budget.
We think that in case the said recommendations are followed, the 2014 budget of Zugdidi municipality will become oriented towards the interests of citizens and will cover all the exigent problems the local population faces on daily basis. We believe that the interest of local population primarily is solution of social and infrastructural problems. Therefore, the local government should pay greater attention to this area during the budgetary planning. The budget should be created based on considerations of biggest challenges in the municipality and the proportionality principle. Therefore, realizing the existing problems in Zugdidi municipality, a priority should be given to social and infrastructural projects.
 Although the law does not provide for the rules for giving a bonus salary, such decision is an individual-administrative act and, thus, it must include corresponding justification. The act must account for all the circumstances which were substantially important for the issuance of the act – The General Administrative Code of Georgia, Article 53, subsections 1,2,4.