Alleged cases of high-level corruption point at need for drastic changes in anti-corruption system
The investigative institutions’ response to information recently disseminated about alleged cases of corruption was slow, non-transparent and inefficient, which points at the need for reforming Georgia’s anti-corruption system.
The publicized secret recording of a conversation between Zaza Okuashvili, founder of Iberia TV Company and Omega Group, and Levan Kipiani, former minister of sports and youth affairs, in which a “contribution” required to settle tax problems for a business is discussed, in all likelihood, contains signs of a corruption-related crime.
On 12 September, Zugdidi Mayor Lasha Gogia and his deputy, Gia Gulordava, resigned from their posts. There were reports that the State Security Service started an investigation into a bribe taken by former Zugdidi Mayor Lasha Gogia. In the secret recording disseminated by the media, the Zugdidi mayor and businessman Zurab Kvirkvia are allegedly talking about a transfer of property in exchange for a bribe.
These occurrences were preceded by unexpected government changes in July 2018 when Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili and Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economy Dimitri Kumsishvili left their posts. After these changes, the public learnt about an investigation into embezzlement of large sums of money at the Ministry of Economy and the Ministry of Regional Development and Infrastructure. With regard to this matter, the Chief Prosecutor’s Office summoned Dimitri Kumsishvili and Zurab Alavidze (who left the post of the minister of regional development and infrastructure earlier, on 30 March 2018) for questioning. However, the public only learnt about this after they had left their posts.
These cases confirm that today in Georgia the risk of corruption is high when the process of business-government interaction is at issue. The state, however, has no effective mechanisms to prevent or respond to the crimes.
Prime Minister Mamuka Bakhtadze, when he was nominated as a candidate for this post, said that the changes in the anti-corruption system would be one of the main tasks of the new government. He emphasized the creation of new anti-corruption mechanisms in his speech at the Open Government Partnership Summit, too, however, the government has not yet taken any practical steps in this regard.
Due to the fact that it is subordinated to the State Security Service, the Anti-Corruption Agency’s activities do not meet the high standards of transparency, and information about the process of investigation of corruption-related crimes is not publicly available. The institution responsible for investigating and preventing corruption-related crimes must be separated from the State Security Service, and Georgia’s international partners point to that, too. This agency should be established as a separate, independent institution, accountable to Parliament and equipped with appropriate institutional, financial and human resources.
The statement was prepared with the financial support of the Swedish International Development Agency (Sida)