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Ioseb Khakhaleishvili: “I would like to comment on reports that Kutaisi City Hall cannot start the Hundred-Steps Stairs and the Colchis Fountain [projects] which is a flat out lie… Contracts have been signed and winner companies will begin reconstruction of the aforementioned sights very shortly. Therefore, our pledges are always kept.”

Verdict: FactCheck concludes that Ioseb Khakhaleishvili’s statement is HALF TRUE.

Resume: Reconstruction of the Hundred-Steps Stairs, located on Kutaisi’s Aghmashenebeli Avenue, should have been completed by 27 March 2022, although the provider company moved the project completion deadlines several times. According to the latest changes, the work has to be finished by 31 August 2022. FactCheck paid a visit to the sights. As of 10 August 2022 (see photograph 1), there is still much to do for the Hundred-Steps Stairs before the work is finalised as proposed by the project (see rendering in photograph 2). Therefore, it is doubtful that the company will complete the renovations by the deadline.

Four companies took part in tender valued at GEL 740,928. Britania Construction, a branch of a foreign-based company, offered the lowest price of GEL 673,821 to the buyer, although the contract value increased and reached GEL 741,191 on 17 March 2022. Three other companies participating in the tender also offered prices lower than this value which is only natural since the current value of the contract is higher as compared to the value announced initially.

The statement also mentions Kutaisi Central Fountain. Reconstruction of the fountain has already been completed. The project was carried out by Davit LLC. The parties initially signed a GEL 526,992 contract and its value later increased and eventually the buyer paid GEL 572,987 to the provider. This means that the value of the project got more expensive by GEL 45,995. The price growth was precipitated by adding external incrustation work with mosaic tiles. The duration of the work was extended by several months and was finished on 5 April 2022 instead of 19 February 2022.

Given all of the aforementioned, FactCheck concludes that Ioseb Khakhaleishvili’s pledge is being kept since contract has indeed been signed and the reconstruction process has already started. However, the protracted process before launching the reconstruction indeed provided ground for criticising Kutaisi City Hall and decrying this criticism as a “flat out lie” is not true. Therefore, FactCheck concludes that Ioseb Khakhaleishvili’s statement is HALF TRUE.

Analysis:

On 21 March 2021, a few days before the run-off for the Kutaisi mayoral race, Mayor of Kutaisi (at the moment of making the statement, he was a candidate for the Mayor of Kutaisi), addressed citizens live on TV and spoke about several projects which had been previously announced. In particular, Ioseb Khakhaleishvili stated: “I would like to comment on reports that Kutaisi City Hall cannot start the Hundred-Steps Stairs and Colchis Fountain [projects] which is a flat out lie… Contracts have been signed and winner companies will begin reconstruction of the aforementioned sights very shortly. Therefore, our pledges are always kept.”

On 10 September 2021, Kutaisi City Hall announced a tender with GEL 740,928 as the potential value for the reconstruction of the Hundred-Steps Stairs located on Aghmashenebeli Avenue. There were four companies taking part in the tender with Britania Construction, a branch of a foreign-based company, offering the lowest price. The parties signed a GEL 673,821 contract and 27 March 2022 was set as the deadline for completing the construction work for the provider company. However, several days before the deadline, the contract’s terms were amended on 17 March 2022. In particular, the project’s value increased by GEL 67,370 and reached GEL 741,191. Of note is that the current contract value is higher as compared to the potential value of the project. According to the same agreement, the deadline for the work was extended to 19 July 2022.

However, the company was unable to complete the project after the extended deadline and request one more extension, this time to 31 August 2022.

FactCheck learned about the situation on the ground. We visited the site on 10 August 2022 at 18:15. At that time, there were no employees at the venue and we could not see a representative of the company either. Based on our visual inspection, there is still a lot more work to be done before the Hundred-Steps Stairs looks like they are supposed to be according to the project.

According to the information uploaded on the website of the State Procurement Agency, as of now the company has been paid GEL 358,581 which is 48% of the total value. Payments were done in five instalments and two of them were advance payments to the provider company.

FactCheck would like to inform readers that Britania Construction, a branch of a foreign enterprises, was registered in Georgia in August 2019. It is owned by GEO SKY CONSTRUCTION LIMITED 9813522, registered in the UK in 2015.

Of note is that Kutaisi City Hall has been announcing the reconstruction of the Hundred-Steps Stairs since 2018. However, the initial sketch was changed because Kutaisi City Hall included territory belonging to Georgia’s Ministry of Economy in the project area. Later, the parameters were adjusted and a tender for the purchase of project documentation was announced, although it was not held. Afterwards, two more tenders were announced for the same purpose. On the third attempt, the project was prepared by Geoanalitika LLC and received a GEL 22,990 payment for this.

In April 2020, Kutaisi City Hall attempted to purchase reconstruction work through a tender once again. The tender was held, although it soon ended given some flaws in the documentation submitted by competitors.

The tender for reconstruction of the Colchis Fountain was also announced on 10 September 2021. Kutaisi City Hall signed a contract with the winner Davit LLC valued at GEL 526,992. Later, the parties agreed that external incrustation work with mosaic tiles would also be added. This increased the contract value by GEL 45,995. The buyer transferred GEL 572,987 to the provider company. The deadline for the construction work was also extended by several months and it was completed on 5 April 2022 instead of 19 February 2022.

Given all of the aforementioned, FactCheck concludes that Ioseb Khakhaleishvili’s pledge is being kept since the contract has indeed been signed and the reconstruction process has already started. However, the protracted process before launching the reconstruction indeed provided ground for criticising Kutaisi City Hall and decrying this criticism as a “flat out lie” is not true. Therefore, FactCheck concludes that Ioseb Khakhaleishvili’s statement is HALF TRUE.

Editor’s Remark:

Initially, FactCheck’s verdict for this statement was FALSE. After communication with Kutaisi City Hall, the verdict was amended and respectively, our conclusion was also modified and relevant changes were made in the text.

The initial version of the article, prior to the amendment, wording of the conclusion was as follows:

“Therefore, that part of the Mayor’s statement that contracts have been signed and companies will start work very shortly is true. However, in the case of the Hundred-Steps Stairs, despite multiple extensions of the deadline, work is still incomplete. Therefore, FactCheck concludes that Ioseb Khakhaleishvili’s pledge is being kept, although the protracted process is precisely indicative of those shortcomings which Mr Khakhaleishvili denied in this statement. As a result, FactCheck gives a FALSE verdict to this statement.”


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