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Davit Narmania, Tbilisi mayoral candidate, touched upon the issue of Tbilisi’s streets in his interview with the Public Broadcaster on 5 May 2014 and stated the following: ”The government of the capital city has been engaged in a deliberate sabotage regarding the street issue. They should have solved the street problem a long time ago and started working on them as early as January. They should have announced tenders and rehabilitated the streets soon after the winter season, but, unfortunately, we cannot see this.”

FactCheck

took interest in this statement and tried to find out what the real situation is in terms of Tbilisi’s streets.

Tbilisi’s streets were significantly damaged after the winter of 2014. Tbilisi City Council blamed Tbilisi City Hall for delaying the start of street rehabilitation work. Jaba Samushia, Chairman of Tbilisi City Council, told FactCheck

the following: “The street surfaces are in poor conditions throughout Tbilisi. Despite the fact that the assigned amount in Tbilisi’s budget of 2014 for street rehabilitation is equal to GEL 37 million, construction-repair work on the streets has not started yet [as of May] which causes objective discontent in society. The government of the capital city had the relevant funds to implement preliminary street surface repair work. It was delayed artificially. The Acting Mayor of Tbilisi and Tbilisi City Hall wanted to blame Tbilisi City Council for this issue and explain this delay by the absence of a city budget. I want to declare with full responsibility that until 7 March, before the approval of the budget under the conditions of spending one-twelfth of the funds and today when Tbilisi has its own budget, there are enough funds in order to ensure the full rehabilitation of the streets.”

Tbilisi did not have its own city budget at the beginning of 2014. The initial version of the budget was sent to Tbilisi City Council by Tbilisi City Hall in November 2013. The approval of the capital city’s budget was delayed for four months. According to the initial version, the city budget was determined at GEL 720 million. The second version of the budget was sent to City Council in December 2013 which amounted to approximately GEL 730 million. The third version of the budget with appropriations amounting to GEL 785 million was sent to City Council by City Hall in January 2014. The fourth version of the budget with appropriations amounting to approximately GEL 850 million was sent to City Council by City Hall in February 2014. The Tbilisi city budget was approved only on 7 March.

Non-governmental organisations have also responded to the issue of Tbilisi’s budget. Transparency International Georgia published its report about the non-approval of the Tbilisi city budget which stated that the discussing-approval process of the budget had been taking place for three months amid political discussions and allegations which themselves were halting the processes and ignoring the interests of citizens. Transparency International Georgia considered that the remarks of Tbilisi City Council on the first version of the budget neither created insurmountable obstacles nor constituted the basis for the rejection of the budget. In addition, a possible political motivation for delaying the process was confirmed by the fact that City Council could have presented its remarks on the budget at the first stage and not step-by-step. If it were not possible to present all of the remarks at the first stage, City Council would have had the possibility to make amendments to the Tbilisi city budget. The continued preparation of new remarks concerning the presented budget appeared to be an artificial delay of the process.

As for using one-twelfth of the budget, according to Point 7 of Article 78 of the Budgetary Code of Georgia, in the case of a non-approval of the budget of a local self-governing unit prior to the planned year, the relevant executive body is authorised to issue one-twelfth of the previous budgetary year’s appropriations monthly on each priority.

According to the Tbilisi city budget for 2013, the assigned appropriations for transport-infrastructural development were equal to GEL 122,382,211. Therefore, the monthly assigned amount of funds to be spent on the aforementioned priorities in 2014 was equal to GEL 10,198,517.

Tbilisi City Hall responded to the accusation of Tbilisi City Council. According to the official statement of Tbilisi City Hall, the Tbilisi City Council majority did not approve the Tbilisi city budget for 2014 for four months which halted various projects in the capital. Despite this, according to the statement by Tbilisi City Hall, repair of damaged infrastructure due to severe frost was actively taking place simultaneously on several streets in the capital.

For further information FactCheck

took interest in the construction-rehabilitation work implemented on Tbilisi streets in previous years and approached Tbilisi City Hall through an official letter to request statistics about construction-rehabilitation work implemented on Tbilisi’s streets in the period of 2009-2013 which is presented in the table below:

2009 2010 2011 2012 2013
Appropriations assigned for street repair-rehabilitation (GEL) 111,803,900 94,441,800 38,311,200 73,282,000 42,480,700
Cash implementation (GEL) 96,786,600 94,290,800 38,310,500 67,173,100 38,212,300
Number of repaired and reconstructed streets 49 33 57 145 129
Number of potholes in repaired streets 92 269 250 249 237

Appropriations allocated for municipal improvement service for street construction-rehabilitation work from the budget of the Tbilisi self-governing unit in 2014 was equal to GEL 37,313,500. Pavement rehabilitation work was completed on 24 addresses this year (according to data from May). Among them, three streets were repaired and reconstructed and potholes were repaired on 21 streets. According to the data from May, work was done on 40 streets overall. Among them, reconstruction of street surfaces took place on 14 streets while the number of pothole repaired streets was equal to 26.

According to the statistics, 366 streets were repaired in 2013 (repair and reconstruction of 129 streets and pothole repair of 237 streets). Reconstruction work was implemented on 40 streets during four months while the similar work was completed on 24 streets. Accordingly, 64 streets were rehabilitated during a four-month period. In the corresponding period of the previous year, according to rough calculations (and considering that equal work was implemented in each season), one-third of 366 streets; that is, 122 streets should have been repaired which is approximately twice more than the number of streets repaired in 2014 (64).

In order to find out more about the issue, FactCheck

requested statistics about the announced tenders for street rehabilitation work in the period of 2011-2014 from Tbilisi City Hall.

According to Tbilisi City Hall, 48 tenders in total were announced for street rehabilitation work last year. As for the first four months of the current year, four tenders in total were announced for this work. Global House Ltd won two tenders announced on 21 January and signed a contract for the purpose of street repair on the right (contractual value of GEL 212,361,00) and left (contractual value of GEL 123,220,00) banks of Mtkvari River in Tbilisi.

RSP-40 Ltd participated in and won two tenders announced on 8 April for implementing street repair work (pothole repair) on the right (contractual value of GEL 597,210,84)  and left (contractual value of GEL 597,210,84) banks of the Mtkvari River in Tbilisi. The contract has already been signed.

FactCheck

contacted the companies which won tenders in 2014 and received confirmation that they indeed won. Global Georgia Ltd is implementing pavement maintenance on the right and left banks of the Mtkvari River. The work has been started and is slated to be completed in October-November.

A contract has been signed with RSP-40 Ltd for the purpose of implementing pothole repair work on streets located on the right and left banks of the Mtkvari River. This work has already started.

FactCheck contacted Tbilisi City Hall several times and asked for comment by an authorised person regarding the current situation of Tbilisi’s streets. FactCheck wanted to find out which period of the year is the most active in terms of street paving in order to make exact comparisons of the data from 2013 and 2014. Despite various attempts, Tbilisi City Hall did not respond to questions posed by FactCheck.   Conclusion  According to the information obtained by FactCheck, 129

streets were repaired and reconstructed and potholes were repaired on 237 streets in Tbilisi in 2013 which is equal to a total of 366 streets receiving maintenance work.

According to the data from May, rehabilitation work was completed on 24 addresses. Work was being implemented on 40 streets in the month of May. Of these surfaces were repaired and reconstructed on 14 streets and potholes were repaired on 26 streets. Rehabilitation work was being completed on 64 streets.

Due to the fact that FactCheck

was unable to obtain relevant information from Tbilisi City Hall, we tried to compare the first four months of 2013 and 2014 through calculating the average. If we compare the average data from the first quarters of the previous and current years, logically the rehabilitation work during four months of 2013 was probably implemented on twice as many streets than in the corresponding period in 2014.

Tbilisi City Hall announced 48 tenders regarding street rehabilitation work in 2013 while only four tenders were announced this year (data from May), two in January and two in April. Tbilisi City Hall has announced only four tenders during four months in 2014 while it announced 20 tenders in the corresponding period in the previous year. This equates to five times more. However, it should be noted that the majority of tenders announced in December 2013 were implemented at the beginning of 2014.

The contractual value of tenders announced in 2014 for street rehabilitation work was equal to GEL 1,530,001 in total. In the conditions of one-twelfth of the budget theoretically it was possible to spend GEL 10,198,517 on these priorities. In the case of the non-approval of the budget, City Hall could still have started the street rehabilitation work.

According to the official information and logical assumptions, it is possible to say that the rehabilitation process of Tbilisi’s streets in 2014 has deteriorated as compared to the previous year. Tbilisi City Hall blamed the street problems this year on the delay of the approval of the city budget. Tbilisi City Council stated that street repair was possible even under the conditions of spending one-twelfth of the city budget.

According to the information FactCheck

obtained, we can say that the problem of the delays was caused by an unnecessary controversy between two political parties. The analysed statistics indicate that significantly less work was implemented in the first four months of 2014 than compared to previous years. One of the reasons for this was the non-approval of the city budget by Tbilisi City Council which Davit Narmania did not mention in his statement. As was previously noted, several non-governmental organisations evaluated the non-approval of the Tbilisi city budget by City Council as an artificially delayed process.

According to the research FactCheck conducted as well as considering the arguments of two opposing sides, FactCheck concludes that Davit Narmania’s statement, “The government of the capital city should have solved the street problem a long time ago. They should have announced tenders and rehabilitated the streets but, unfortunately, we cannot see this,” is HALF TRUE.

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