Zugdidi Municipality backs down from establishing merit-based model for giving bonuses
At a council meeting held on December 16, 2014, the self-governing community of Zugdidi Municipality made changes to the existing merit model of giving bonuses to local government employees. The change was based on a conclusion made by the State Chancellery Supervision Service. Council members representing both the majority and the minority supported it.
According to a resolution adopted by the same council just one month earlier, on November 21, giving a bonus to a public servant required a written justification describing the employee’s specific achievement for which the bonus was being issued. This resolution was originally adopted by Zugdidi Municipality Council based on recommendations suggested by Transparency International Georgia.
The December 16 amendment to this resolution specifies that:
- A public servant may receive a bonus once per quarter for thorough and exemplary performance of duties, long and honest service and/or completion of an especially challenging or important task.
- Bonuses can also be given to public servants for public holidays (established in the Labor Code) no more than three times per year.
The recent revision of the regulations for giving bonuses was triggered by Report N40727 of December 3 produced by the Supervision Service of the State Chancellery Department of Communication with Regions and Local Government. The Supervision Service concluded that November 21 resolution of Zugdidi Municipality Council contained certain flaws, chief of which is its contradiction of Government Resolution N449 of July 15 on "approving rules for bonus amounts in public institutions". The Supervision Service considers the government resolution to have a legal superiority over the council resolution, since the latter was adopted on the basis of the former, as cited in the preamble to the 48th resolution adopted on November 21 by Zugdidi Municipality Council.
Transparency International Georgia believes that:
Zugdidi Municipality Council’s resolution of November 21 was exemplary, since it established a model of giving bonuses based solely on merit, when substantiated by an appropriate document.
Zugdidi Municipality Council could have refused to make the proposed change during its discussion of the conclusion made by the supervisory body and corrected the preamble by removing the reference to the government resolution, which establishes an altogether different bases for giving bonuses.
Adding a clarification that bonuses may be issued once per quarter is not an unequivocally negative change, since it establishes an additional restriction that will reduce the possibility of abuse of bonus giving. It is important to make sure, however, that each decision to give a bonus is properly substantiated and that this does not lead to a practice where bonuses are automatically issued every quarter.
The change concerning giving of bonuses for holidays contradicts the original spirit of the November 21 resolution, or the idea that a bonus should serve as an incentive for better performance.
The final decision made by Zugdidi Municipality Council is yet another sign that the decentralization process in the country is proceeding too slowly. This example also shows that the central government grossly interferes with the affairs of municipalities, and that local government bodies are unable to make decisions independently on issues related to their exclusive authority.
In the coming days Transparency International Georgia is planning to publish an extensive legal analysis of regulations related to giving bonuses followed by municipalities.