Georgian Government Must Take Effective Steps To Address Challenge of High-Level Corruption
Statement of the Occasion of the International Anti-Corruption Day
The International Anti-Corruption Day is celebrated on 9 December. Corruption remains a significant problem in all parts of the world, undermining the public’s trust in government institutions, obstructing rational use of public resources, and hindering the resolution of serious social and economic problems. Corruption jeopardizes democratic governance and rule of law, and it may also be considered a national security threat in the era of information wars.
Georgia has made some progress in combating corruption since 2004. Bribery in the delivery of public services, in particular, has been eliminated almost completely.
At the same time, more complex forms of corruption remain a problem in Georgia. According to a public opinion poll conducted by Transparency International Georgia earlier this year, 36% of the respondents believe that abuse of power for personal gain is common among public officials in Georgia, while only 16% think that it is not common.
The recent high-profile cases of alleged corruption and the government’s reaction to them indicate that the relevant agencies in Georgia are currently incapable of effective action against corruption whenever it is likely to involve high-ranking officials or influential individuals with links to the ruling party. moreover, the 2018 presidential election clearly demonstrated that unlawful financing of electoral campaigns endangers proper functioning of the democratic political system.
The European Parliament’s November resolution on the implementation of the EU Association Agreement with Georgia also highlighted the problem of “elite” corruption in Georgia.
The government must urgently take the following steps in order to address the current challenges in terms of corruption:
- Remove the investigation of alleged cases of corruption from the State Security Service and consider the possibility of establishing an independent anti-corruption agency;
- Ensure the independence of the Prosecutor’s Office and its protection from the undue influence of the ruling party and of informal groups;
- Undertake to strengthen the system for monitoring party and campaign financing;
- Adopt the freedom of information law;
- Undertake to reinforce internal and external independence of the judiciary;
- Ensure effective enforcement of the provisions on conflict of interest among political officials.
Overcoming the challenge of high-level corruption is a necessary condition for the strengthening of democratic governance and rule of law in Georgia and for the successful continuation of the country’s integration with Europe. It is therefore important for the government to begin an inclusive discussion on the key issues of anti-corruption policy and to show the political will to implement bold reforms.