Zugdidi Municipality's questionable priorities - საერთაშორისო გამჭვირვალობა - საქართველო

Zugdidi Municipality's questionable priorities

29 March, 2013

The formation [1] process of a local self-government unit's budget starts on the first of March every year and ends with its approval in the New Year.

The executive body (Gamgeoba/City Hall) of a local self-government unit is responsible for developing a draft budget and the budget priorities document as well as the fulfillment and reporting on the budget. The examination and approval of a draft budget and control over the budget, meanwhile, is under the charge of the representative body (Sakrebulo) of a local self-government unit.

The experience of previous years shows that tens of thousands of GEL were spent from the Zugdidi Municipality budget on projects that were not the priorities of either the Municipality or the local population. Little focus was made on the implementation of social projects.

For instance, residents of the village of Onaria have for years been requesting that the sewage system be  put in order yet the problem remains unresolved. Up to GEL 30 thousand, however, were spent on several fashion shows held in Anaklia.

Unfortunately, this trend continues this year as well. Take for example the social protection of the elderly, for which only GEL 10 thousand is allocated under the 2013 budget, or the GEL 30 thousand set aside for the IDP support program. The citizens' benefits for using public transport are reduced and GEL 350 thousand is included in the current budget for the cultural events. Out of these, a total of GEL 9,319 was already spent from the budget in March on the International Women's Day and the International Day of Journalism.

Notably, only 4% of the 2013 budget of Zugdidi are allocated for social programs, and even these costs are wrongly planned. For instance, as the Social Service Head of the Zugdidi Municipality Gamgeoba, Gogi Revia told the representative of Transparency International Georgia (TI Georgia), the "free canteen" service is funded with GEL 90 thousand from the Zugdidi Municipality budget. This service is available only to persons whose families are granted 57,000 rating points or less by the Social Service Agency.[2] Under the current data, this number reaches 12,692. If judged logically, the "free canteen" services should be available to all of them. Yet, according to Mr. Revia, due to the scarce budgetary resources of the Municipality, this service is considered for only 200 beneficiaries. He also stated that the Social Service of the Gamgeoba is guided by additional mechanisms/criteria for selecting the beneficiaries of the "free canteen" service, which are not written out officially. It is therefore unclear under which criteria the beneficiaries are in fact selected. This example clearly demonstrates that a certain discriminatory method of budgetary resource distribution is applied towards citizens below a poverty line.

In view of the limited budgetary resources of local self-governments, including the Zugdidi Municipality, it is crucial that its priorities are determined appropriately. It is equally necessary that:

●    The civil society actively participates in the process of budgetary planning and the drafting of the priorities document;

●    The experience of previous years is taken into account when planning the budget, and that the needs are defined based on such experience;

●   The concrete mechanisms/criteria of implementation of budgetary programs are developed so that the Municipality's priorities are tailored to the population's needs, and that the public funds are spent on the exercise of exclusive powers of the self-governments;

●    The executive bodies of local self-governments improve planning of their own budgets by assisting the local spending institutions in filling out the budgetary applications.[3]

The Government of Georgia has launched the local self-government reform; an undeniably  positive initiative. Yet we believe that the effective implementation and completion of the reform definitely requires relevant training of the cadres of the local self-government authorities.  This is so that they properly discharge their new functions and duties conferred by the reform. Proper planning and identification of priorities of the budget will be central among the new functions.

[1] The "Budgetary Code of Georgia", Article 76, Paragraph 3.

[2]28 December 2012 Resolution N43 of the Zugdidi Municipality Sakrebulo on the "Approval of the 2013 Budget of the Zugdidi Municipality", Article 5.3.1.

[3] A spending institution shall solicit money through a budgetary application (the "Budgetary Code of Georgia", Article 77, Paragraph 3).

Author: TI Georgia