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On 21 February 2014, during the President’s visit to the Georgian Parliament, Member of the United National Movement, Giorgi (Goka) Gabashvili, stated that according to Transparency International - Georgia, the Georgian Dream coalition has dismissed more than seven thousand employees on political grounds and that instead of holding competitions, vacant positions were filled on a kinship-friendship basis. In addition, Gabashvili stated that every non-governmental organisation operating in Georgia reports about the intentional eradication of self-government due to political motives.

FactCheck

set out to check the accuracy of the given statement.

In August 2013 Transparency International - Georgia released a report entitled Staffing Changes in the Civil Service after the 2012 Parliamentary Elections.

The reporting period spans from 20 October 2012 to 1 March 2013. These dates were selected since they are the five months immediately following the elections and, usually, in the aftermath of elections, the first few months see the greatest likelihood of people being dismissed or hired upon either political or some other discriminatory grounds (p. 3).

According to the research, a total of 5,149 employees left positions during the reporting period. Of these, 2,330 resigned which is approximately 45% of the total number of those who left their positions

Furthermore, of the public agencies that provided Transparency International - Georgia with staff lists, a total of 11% of employees were dismissed... As the study has demonstrated, supervisors often forced employees to submit letters of resignation using either friendly advice or threats. Many respondents from central and local government institutions openly discussed this with us (p. 5).

The widespread failure to hold examinations, or certifications, was yet another faulty aspect related to employee dismissal. Very often employees were dismissed without any formal examination, justification or certification (the failure to pass the certification process alone is a basis for dismissal). At the same time, the reporting period revealed many instances of blatant illegal dismissal from the civil service with cases such as this reported in the Lentekhi and Zestaponi gamgeobas (

p. 6).

As for the practice of hiring new employees, according to the information obtained, 6,557 civil servants were appointed during the reporting period to positions in central and local government institutions of which only 257 (4%) were selected through competition. Hiring new employees without competition was a clear flaw in the employment process practiced by almost all public institutions (p. 6).

It should also be highlighted that as Giorgi Gabashvili stated, according to the report of Transparency International - Georgia, employees were dismissed on political grounds.

Based upon the statement issued by Transparency International – Georgia, in response to the story broadcast by Rustavi 2, the abovementioned interpretation is not true:  “There is no such statement in our report. The report discusses several cases when our organisation suspected the political grounds behind the dismissal of the employees.”

As for the second part of Giorgi Gabashvili’s statement, about the deliberate eradication of self-government upon a political basis, the report published by the International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy (ISFED), entitled Monitoring of Events Occurring in Local Self-Governments in the Aftermath of the 2012 Parliamentary Elections,

is worthy of mention. The reporting spans the elections period of 1 October 2012 until 3 August 2013.

According to the aforementioned report, from 1 October 2012 to 3 August 2013, governors in 55 municipalities were replaced throughout the country including several times over in certain municipalities… In the same time period, the chairs of city halls (sakrebulo) were replaced in 31 municipalities. Additionally, of note is the fact that after 3 August until the release of the report, governors in 13 additional municipalities as well as chairs of city halls (sakrebulo)

in three municipalities and mayors in two cities were replaced. According to ISFED, 37 of the new governors are either members or supporters of the Georgian Dream, five of them belong to the United National Movement and the rest of them are non-partisans or their political views could not be identified by ISFED.

ISFED also studied the staffing changes in local self-governments after the parliamentary elections. The staffing changes concerned 55 gamgeobas and 26 city halls (sakrebulo)

of 69 municipalities. Based upon the public information obtained from the local self-governments (ISFED withdrew information from all Georgian municipalities), a total of 2,321 employees were dismissed between 1 October 2012 and 1 June 2013. Among them, this clearly massive dismissal concerned state representatives; specifically, governors of local self-government units… In total, overall, 519 state representatives, specifically, governors in 34 municipalities were dismissed.

According to the research, the majority of the dismissed employees wrote their resignation letters of their own accord. In a number of cases, dozens of employees wrote the resignation letters on the same day which raises logical doubts about their making this decision deliberately and independently. In some cases, the dismissed public servants confirm that they were asked to leave their positions by their supervisors although the majority refrains from publicising this fact… According to ISFED’s information, since 1 October 2012 hiring procedures have showed a tendency towards containing political motives. Competitions were announced in only 11 municipalities. Mainly, the activists and supporters of the Georgian Dream were hired on political grounds.

In addition, the following non-governmental organisations commented

upon the amendments to the Law of Georgia on Civil Service made on 5 February 2014:  Transparency International - Georgia, Georgian Young Lawyers' Association, International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy and Open Society Georgia Foundation. According to the aforementioned amendments, in the aftermath of the local self-government elections set for 2014, all civil servants, including those appointed upon the competition basis, will be referred to as interim officials with new competitions being conducted to fill up the vacancies.

According to the statement of the aforementioned non-governmental organisations: “The amendment is even more discouraging in light of the upcoming municipal elections and raises legitimate suspicions about intentions to mobilise public servants for party campaigns. Work and behaviour of civil servants employed at local self-government bodies must be unrelated to the electoral cycle. Subsequently, we believe that the above change can seriously damage the trust towards the electoral process. Enactment of the norm ahead of local elections will create the sense of instability among public servants, and with great likelihood, they will act in favor of the ruling party in the pre-election campaigns in order to preserve their jobs.”

Conclusion

Our inquiry about the accuracy of the given statement revealed that the figure named by Giorgi Gabashvili, in the first part of his statement where he discusses the number of dismissed civil servants according to the report of Transparency International -Georgia, is fairly exaggerated. Based upon the abovementioned report, a total of 5,149 people were dismissed in the period under review and not 7,000as claimed by the MP. Gabashvili also mistakenly states that the report of Transparency International - Georgia depicts the named dismissals to be politically motivated. Transparency International - Georgia has issued a public statement in response to the claim in which it described such an interpretation of the report as inaccurate and underlined that its report offered no grounds for such judgement. However, the organisation allows for the possibility that in some cases the dismissal of the employees may have been motivated by political reasons. In addition, it is to be noted that the high number of employees leaving their positions of their own accord (45%) raises certain doubts about the real reasons underlying their departure. The aforementioned report mentions frequent facts when civil servants were forced to write their resignation letters against their will. Gabashvili correctly points to the facts of civil servants being employed without due competition. These facts are verified in the report of Transparency International - Georgia in which it is stated that only 4% of the new employees have been hired based upon the competition procedure.

As for the second part of Giorgi Gabashvili’s statement, although his evaluation of the ongoing processes is overestimated as he states that self-government is being intentionally eradicated, the abovementioned report indeed discusses the facts of the illegal dismissal and hiring of employees based upon partisanship instead of fair competition. Naturally, these facts disrupt the effective performance of the local self-government units and violate the independence of self-government in general. Furthermore, certain non-governmental organisations negatively evaluate the amendments to the Law of Georgia on Civil Service arguing thateventually it will unfavourably affect civil servants employed in local self-governments.

Therefore, we conclude that Giorgi Gabashvili’s statement: “Transparency International reports about the dismissal of thousands, to be more precise, over seven thousand people on political grounds. All the non-governmental organisations operating in Georgia point to the politically motivated deliberate eradication of self-government,” is MOSTLY TRUE.  Nino Turiashvili