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Protests highlight the urgent need for clean government in Georgia

TI calls for full and public disclosure of assets of government officials, and issues recommendations for improving accountability in Georgia

The public protests at high-level corruption in the Georgian government, seen on the streets of Tbilisi, "reflect not only the urgent need for clean government in Georgia, but in the Caucasus region as a whole," said Miklos Marschall, Transparency International's Executive Director for Central and Eastern Europe and the Former Soviet Union. "The urgency is heightened by the close link between the degree of corruption and regime stability in the region," he added. Transparency International (TI) is the leading non-governmental organisation engaged in the fight against corruption worldwide.

The current political crisis began when the Security Ministry police tried to raid the private TV station Rustavi-2 on 31 October, allegedly in an attempt to uncover tax evasion. Over the past year, the media has accused high-ranking politicians of involvement in kidnapping, murder and drug-dealing, and the whole nation was shocked at the murder in July this year of Georgi Sanaia, a journalist at Rustavi-2. After the raid of the TV station last week, journalists were joined on the streets of Tbilisi by thousands of members of the public in protest marches. Events culminated in the dismissal of the whole cabinet by President Eduard Shevardnadze on 1 November. On 10 November, the Georgian Parliament elected a new speaker, Nino Burjanadze, and President Shevardnadze subsequently announced that he will appoint a new slimmed-down cabinet in the coming weeks.

TI today issued a set of recommendations to guide the incoming government of Georgia in the fight against corruption. According to Miklos Marschall, "the rule of law and its fair application go hand in hand with the accountability of government officials and government ministers as prerequisites of open government and sustainable economic growth in the countries of the former Soviet Union." He continued: "If Georgia falls into chaos and lawlessness, the access of the international community to the Caspian basin states could be severely limited, with serious consequences for economic development and for security in the region."

The current co-operation of countries in the region, such as Uzbekistan, with the US action in Afghanistan "should not be used as a cover for the corruption of political elites in the region," said Miklos Marschall. "International donors should insist on no-bribery Integrity Pacts between all partners before signing aid deals or baling out indebted governments."

David Kikalishvili, Chairman of Transparency International Georgia, said that it was essential to act quickly at a time when fighting has broken out again in Abkhazia. Kikalishvili, who is also a journalist at Rustavi-2, continued: "A comprehensive campaign against corruption is long overdue, and there needs to be immediate action to guarantee press freedom in Georgia."

"A programme of judicial reform, in co-operation with international donors, has been launched," said David Kikalishvili, "in particular the introduction of qualifying exams and higher wages for judges." He added that it was essential that the priorities identified by the Georgian Anti-Corruption Programme Elaboration Group, launched by President Shevardnadze in July 2000, should be put into effect.

Transparency International calls for a holistic approach to fighting corruption and for the development of a National Integrity System1, where each pillar, from the executive, legislature and judiciary, through the private sector and watchdog agencies to an independent media and civil society organisations, is crucial to maintain the equilibrium of the system. If one or more pillars are built on sand, the burden imposed on the other pillars becomes progressively imbalanced until the whole edifice begins to topple or even collapse. Whenever this happens, the rule of law collapses and with it the prospects for economic and social welfare.

Transparency International recommends that the Georgian President and government take urgent steps, including the following, to address the situation:

  • The full implementation of the National Anti-Corruption Programme
  • Special measures to remove the "impunity" of government ministers and legislators, and the introduction of a requirement of full and public disclosure of their income and assets. Those not prepared to do so should be required to leave office.
  • Reinforcement of the independence and professionalism of the judiciary.
  • Strict guarantees of press freedom, and vigorous investigation on the murder of, and physical attacks on, journalists.
  • A clear and unambiguous demarcation of the distinctions between various government agencies
  • The introduction of a comprehensive Business Ethics programme for the region, including the establishment of Integrity Pacts (a no-bribes affidavit to be signed by all parties, including subcontractors) for the $1 billion Baku-Ceyhan gas pipeline project, from Azerbaijan through Georgia to Turkey.
  • Stricter laws and regulations to prevent law enforcement officials putting themselves above the law.
  • A review of civil service salaries and staffing policies
  • The strengthened involvement of civil society organisations in anti-corruption measures and in the monitoring of their enforcement.

The National Integrity System, pioneered by Jeremy Pope, is explained in the Transparency International Source Book 2000: Confronting Corruption , The Elements of a National Integrity System. See www.transparency.org/


For any press enquiries please contact

Tbilisi:
Gia Kiknadze, Director TI-Georgia
Tel: +995 9956 0880

Berlin:
Jeff Lovitt,
Head of Public Relations
TI Secretariat
Tel: +49-30 3438 2045
Fax: +49-30 3470 3912
press@transparency.org