TI Georgia Has Released Local Integrity Systems Assessment - საერთაშორისო გამჭვირვალობა - საქართველო

TI Georgia Has Released Local Integrity Systems Assessment

09 December, 2015

Tbilisi, 9 December 2015: Transparency International Georgia today published the Local Integrity Systems Assessment report which covers three self-governing cities - Tbilisi, Kutaisi, and Zugdidi - and examines various aspects of the operation of their local government bodies. The study aims to identify the main strengths and weaknesses of the local government bodies and to offer recommendations accordingly.

A functioning local integrity system can play an important role in minimizing the opportunities for corruption at the local level. A typical local integrity system incorporates a set of core actors that can be found in most local government configurations: the local representative body (in Georgia - municipal councils), the executive (City Hall or municipal administration), the local bureaucracy (civil servants).

A local integrity system also encompasses a set of oversight and accountability functions which need to be performed in order to ensure that the local integrity system is effective. These functions include complaints handling, local government auditing and oversight, investigation and exposure of corruption, awareness-raising and public education on corruption risks, and civic engagement.

The main strengths of assessed municipalities:

  • The functions of local executive authorities and municipal councils are clearly defined and separated at the legislative level. Therefore, there are no significant problems in this regard.

  • Local bureaucracies of all three municipalities received high scores for their handling of financial, infrastructural and human resources.

  • Transparency and simplicity of regulations in tax administration are definite strengths; however, problematic issues were identified in this area as well.

  • Strengths in terms of oversight and accountability include the procedure (in practice) of appealing decisions made by the local government, and the legislative norms regulating the audit process.

The study identified several important shortcomings:

  • The City Council is a weak supervisory body in all three municipalities; therefore, important steps need to be taken in order to increase its independence. The majority of respondents interviewed for the study stated that City Councils mostly focus on discussing initiatives coming from the local executive and ignore other issues of local importance.

  • All three municipalities received the lowest possible score for local bureaucracy management.

  • All three municipalities received the lowest possible score for the independence of local bureaucracy, since the independence of public servants from political processes is not ensured. This is clearly evidenced by large-scale staffing changes made in local bureaucracies after local government elections, raising serious suspicions of a politically motivated process.

  • The study found that equalization transfers from the central budget comprise a significant portion of the local budget, which reduces the local government’s financial independence.

  • The weakness of interaction mechanisms between the local government and the citizens is also a problem.

  • The study found that the local government in all three municipalities is inactive in terms of raising public awareness of corruption risks.

  • Social accountability initiatives originating in the public sector are largely ineffective, especially when it comes to important issues of public or urban policy.

The following are our recommendations based on the main findings of this study:

  • City Councils' supervisory function needs to be strengthened, its independence ensured, and the local executive made more accountable to it. City Councils need to start initiating discussions on important urban policy issues with a higher degree of public participation. According to the Local Government Code, but contrary to the established practice, the City Council is responsible for making key policy decisions of the local government.

  • Local government representatives need to take effective steps to improve the management of the local bureaucracy. Specifically, local governments must not limit themselves to initiatives coming from the central government. Instead, they need to work independently on introducing good governance standards by fixing issues related to bonuses, salaries, and salary supplements, improving the rules for recruitment, promotion and dismissal of employees, and ensuring transparency and accountability.

  • Local government representatives need to ensure the independence of local bureaucracy from the political process. They must not allow the violation of political rights of civil servants and must protect them from forced involvement in the political process. The local government needs to make an effort to attract professionals to the public sector regardless of their political views.

  • The mechanisms of interaction between the local government and the citizens need to be improved through awareness-raising campaigns on corruption risks and active involvement of citizen groups and non-governmental organizations in the decision-making process. For this purpose, local governments need to strictly follow the provisions on the forms of citizen participation outlined in their respective rules of procedure  as well as the Local Government Code (open-door sessions, citizen consultations, etc.), and work towards improving them.

  • Local government authorities need to improve the organizational side of their work. Specifically, the number of extraordinary sessions of a City Council and the number of issues on the agenda for each session need to be reduced. Agendas and other important information also need to be published in advance.

  • Local governments need to constantly strive towards making use of existing best practices at least on the country level. The study identified budget planning and service delivery as good areas for sharing local best practices.

  • The discretion of regulating construction held by local government authorities carries corruption risks and, therefore, needs to be reduced. Subjectivity in the decision-making process in this area can be reduced by creating guideline documents, such as the Land Use Master Plan and the Urban Development Regulation Plan, with a high degree of public participation.

  • Further steps need to be taken to ensure financial independence of the local government. Mechanisms for ensuring its financial independence need to be gradually developed and approved.