State budget allocates GEL 5 million for the renovation of the old Parliament building
On April 5, 2013 Georgian Parliament announced an electronic tender for renovation of the former Parliament building. On April 25 it started receiving tender offers. According to the tender documentation, the building is being renovated with the purpose of locating the Parliament of Georgia.
The object for state purchase is renovation and equipment of former plenary session hall and plenary session hall for 150 MPs in the surrounding area in building B of the Parliament building located at 8, Rustaveli Avenue, Tbilisi; former cinema hall in building A and committee hearings hall in the surrounding area (with 120 working places), and former committee hearings halls in building C (First Republic and Ilia Chavchavadze halls) (with 80-80 working places); equipping abovementioned areas with furniture, lighting, conference and voting, sound system and simultaneous translation, stenography, video recording, video conference, projection and visualization systems. Estimated cost of purchase amounts to GEL 5 million.
One circumstance is worth to mention in regards to the mentioned tender. In accordance with Article 481 of the Constitution of Georgia, location of Parliament of Georgia is in Kutaisi. Temporary change of location of Georgian Parliament with the purpose of convening a meeting or a session is permitted only in the state of emergency or war. Accordingly, the Parliament is obliged to exercise its constitutional authorities in the city of Kutaisi.
In December 2012 Members of Parliament initiated constitutional amendments, which includes elimination of Article 481 from the Constitution, thus removing the obligation for carrying out parliamentary activities in Kutaisi. However, Parliament has not adopted the amendment yet and as the Chairman of the Parliament declared on February 20, this amendment will not be voted on until the end of spring session. As the location of Parliament is in Kutaisi according to the existing legislation, it is worth pondering, whether it is lawful and advisable to allocate funds from the state budget for renovation of the Parliament building in another city.
Also it is interesting how the costs will be justified in case the above-mentioned changes are not adopted by the Parliament. It is planned to renovate plenary and committee halls, which will not be probably used for other purposes. Failure to adopt the constitutional amendments is quite a realistic scenario, as the parliamentary majority does not have a constitutional majority that was confirmed by a test vote held on March 21. 100 votes are needed to approve constitutional amendment and the ruling party has only 93 votes at this point (including the Non-Partisan, Independent Majoritarians faction MPs). By-elections on April 27 could supplement 3 additional votes to the majority, though it would not be enough to obtain constitutional majority even then. The Parliamentary minority has repeatedly stated that they will not support this amendment.
Transparency International Georgia believes that transfer of Parliament to Kutaisi hinders involvement of interested organizations and groups in everyday activities of Georgian Parliament to some extent. However, we believe that GEL 5 million expenditure from the state budget related to the Parliament’s transfer to Tbilisi before respective amendments are made to the Constitution is a premature decision and does not come in compliance with the law.