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The Temporary Parliamentary Commission Report of 2012 on the work of the State Audit Office of Georgia (Chamber of Control of Georgia) was introduced to MPs at the plenary session held on 26 June 2013. Nodar Ebanoidze, Member of the Parliamentary Majority and the Chairman of this Commission, presented the report. The report was quite critical. According to the Commission, the activities of the State Audit Office were full of violations. Remarks were made regarding the non-transparent nature of the activities of the State Audit Office. Levan Bezhashvili, Member of the Parliamentary Minority [former Chairman of the Chamber of Control of Georgia, 2008-2012] addressed this criticism. He stated: “Here it was mentioned that the Chamber of Control was less transparent in 2008-2012. You may review the assessments in 2012 made by Transparency International Georgia (TI) where the Chamber of Control was recognised as one of the most transparent public institutions. The same applies to the assessment made by the Institute for Development of Freedom of Information (IDFI) which indicates that the Chamber of Control holds the  leader position in terms of its transparency.”

FactCheck

wondered about the accuracy of Levan Bezhashvili’s statement.

The IDFI released the publication Research of the Best Practices of Access to Public Information

in February 2013. The research took place from March until May 2012. The organisation examined the following public institutions: Ministry of Justice, Civil Service Bureau, Competition and State Procurement Agency, Chamber of Control of Georgia and Government of the Autonomous Republic of Adjara. The main objective of the project was to research the content of information posted on online resources of the public institutions as well as its design. The research demonstrates the statistics for the provision of public information by the Chamber of Control. We read the following in the introduction of the research by the IDFI: “One of the research objectives was to assess information proactively published on the website of the Chamber of Control of Georgia. It should be underlined that this public institution stands out for the topicality and quality of its published information.”

As mentioned, the IDFI researched the statistics of the public information provided by the Chamber of Control of Georgia in 2009-2011. The document notes that the IDFI requested public information from the Chamber of Control concerning 50 issues. All these requests were related to information on auto park expenditures, wages and bonuses. Of the 50 requests sent, full answers were provided in 34 cases, partial answers applied to 12 cases, requests were ignored in four cases and no issues were rejected. Of the information requested, 54% was provided in accordance with the terms while 46% was provided in violation of the timing term.

The IDFI provides numerous recommendations to the Chamber of Control to improve deficiencies. However, a phrase by Levan Bezhashvili that the IDFI considers the Chamber of Control as one of the most transparent institutions coincides conceptually with the research published by IDFI.

FactCheck also reviewed the research conducted by Transparency International Georgia. In June 2010, TI Georgia undertook a research project to test the transparency of various public institutions and citizens’ access to public information. The Chamber of Control was one of the organisations it tested in the project. TI Georgia's report demonstrates that the Chamber of Control was one of the most responsive institutions in terms of providing information. The requested information from this institution was received in full.

TI Georgia also conducted research on the activities of the Chamber of Control in 2011. The non-governmental organisation assessed the activities of the State Audit Office mostly positively and endorsed its website. During the research period, the Chamber of Control provided satisfactory response to all four requests for information. The conclusion of the research included some comments regarding deficiencies although the transparency of the State Audit Office was assessed in positive terms overall.

Levan Bezhashvili highlighted in his statement that TI Georgia positively assessed the transparency of the State Audit Office in 2012. We searched for TI Georgia's reports published in 2012 and found that all of them assessed the activities of the Chamber of Control and its transparency in negative terms. The activities of the State Audit Office are strongly criticised in the report released by TI Georgia in April 2012 entitled Finances of Political Parties for the Year 2012. The report notes that the State Audit Office was withholding some important information from the public. TI Georgia also further criticises the Chamber of Control in its press releases. A press release from February 2012 indicates that the Chamber of Control withholds public information. The non-governmental organisation mentions the fact of withholding public information in March 2012 and notes that despite the calls, the Chamber of Control does not fix the shortcomings.

Conclusion

After checking the statement by Levan Bezhashvili, it turned out that the IDFI notes some particular shortcomings but overall positively assesses the steps taken by the Chamber of Control in terms of increasing its transparency [this refers specifically to the functioning of the website]. According to the organisation's assessment, the State Audit Office stands out for the topicality and quality of its published information.

TI Georgia assesses the activities and transparency of the Chamber of Control positively in its published report of 2010-2011. The situation changes from 2012 which is the year highlighted by Levan Bezhashvili. The organisation accuses the Chamber of Control of withholding public information. In the published reports and press releases of TI Georgia in 2012, we cannot come across the examples of referring to the activities of the Chamber of Control in positive terms.

We rate the statement by Levan Bezhashvili: “You may review the assessments in 2012 by Transparency International Georgia where the Chamber of Control was recognised as one of the most transparent public institutions. The same applies to the assessment made by the Institute for Development of Freedom of Information which indicates that the Chamber of Control holds the lead position in terms of its transparency,” HALF TRUE.