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Priority of Sighnaghi Municipality Board: Maintain its Administration

03.12.2008
Gela Mtivlishvili, Kakheti

As Giorgi Bokeria, director of Civil Development Association of Georgia claims, the budgetary standards of the developed countries maintain the expenses of administration to less   than 10 % of the total budget. However, the expenses of district administrations in Georgia exceed 30 % of the total amount allocated for all the local budget of 2008. In addition, there are provisions that envisage separate expenses for stationary items, mono-cards and fuel. For example, in looking closer that the figures, it is clear that the Sighnaghi Municipality Board uses about 4,000 sheets of paper a day; drives 400 kilometers a day and speaks 800 hours by cell phones.

So now you have an indication of how some of the tax money the taxes is spent. The Human Rights Center discussed this matter with Giorgi Bokeria, director of Civil Development Association of Georgia.

-Girogi, how transparent is local budget?

-Transparency is one of the most demanded qualities of the budget. Consequently, the population should be given the opportunity to find out budget expenses in order to comply with such a requirement. The law on Budget Systems and the Budget of Local Self-Governance acknowledges the transparency of the budget expenses as being one of the fundamental principles and its states that governmental officials shall maintain the principle of transparency at each and every stage of budgetary proceedings. Georgian Organic Law on Local Self-Governance and Governance requires the same, and clearly states that citizens are authorized to obtain public information from local self-governmental bodies. They also can be informed ahead of time draft-resolutions being proposed by local authorities and be given the opportunity to participate in their discussion. All this allows for the populace to demand the publication of draft decisions and as well as proceedings of public discussions.

For example, Sighnaghi municipality board arranged public discussion of the draft budget of 2008 but the meeting was attended only by the members of municipality board and personnel of the local administration. The district population was represented only by several people who mostly were concerned with emphasizing the poor social conditions they faced. According to the Article 16 of the Organic Law on Local Authority, the board of the municipality is obliged to guarantee the confirmation of the priorities of social-economical development of the self-governmental agency, municipality programs and plans.

Nevertheless Sighnaghi Municipality Board has not satisfied this requirement of the law in 2008.

In parallel, Sighnaghi Municipality Board does not issue open information about state purchases for 2008 and the draft project proposal for the Sighnaghi district in 2009.  The latter should have been provided by October 15 to the municipality board by district administration. This fact prevents society from having information to analyze about the 2008 budget and draft budgets of 2009. Blocking public information demonstrates that the municipality board has many secret from its populace.

-How does local budget guarantee the solution of most urgent problems of local population and does local authority envisage long-term perspectives in budget-planning?

-long-term goals of district development, resolution sources and terms of social problems are not envisaged in this case as well. As it is mentioned above, public information on budget remains a serious problem in the Sighnaghi district. The requested information is blocked or issued after a delay. Consequently, while planning and confirmation of the 2008 budget of Sighnaghi district the requirements of the law on project-drawing, project-discussion, its publishing, as well as on public involvement in the proceedings and envisaging public interests were breached.

Sighnaghi district population, like in other districts, faces many unresolved problems. In order to resolve these problems, the corresponding amount of money should exist in budget to cover expenses, and this sum can be gathered from the taxes paid by locals and the amount should be spent on specific areas that are deemed as priorities for society. However, what should be and what is different and we consider that expenditures of municipality budget in 2008 were planned inefficiently and money squandered.  For example, the expenditure projects of the organizations are not drawn up properly. According to the law on “Local Self-Governmental Agency”, budget organizations are established based on the sum gathered from the taxes paid by the local population. Their activities should also be planned at the beginning of the year and efficiency of their activities shall also be evaluated in advance. The attitude of local authority to the panning-confirmation process of the budget makes us to think that authority does not consider itself obliged to make a statement about the expected results of the local budget expenses; it does not care about the efficiency of implemented expenses, etc.

-First priority of the Sighnaghi municipality board was to keep its own administration. While the main problem for district population was water supply. How can you assess the situation for 2008?

Early in 2007, the Sighnaghi municipality board planned to spend 1,024 900 GEL for administration expenses. Late in 2007 it was realized that the actual expenses for administration reached 1,736,767 GEL and this reflects that the budget was increased at 711, 867 GEL.  Similar situation can be found is in other districts and it shows a pattern.  As for 2008 budget, Sighnaghi district authority should have only spent 904 000 GEL on its administrative costs. This was 28, 5 % of entire district budget. While, according to the standards of developed countries the expenses for administration should not exceed 10 %. We think, however, expenses of Sighnaghi municipality board are exaggerated. For example, members of the municipality board should have spent 15, 000 GEL on fuel a year that adds up to 60 GEL a day and that is enough to travel 400 kilometers each working day. The same situation is about fuel supply of district governor (driving 6-7 hours a day). Thus, we can conclude that Sighnaghi municipality board should not stay in office on working-days. Maybe, shortened funds for the departments of economical activities and communal expenses have caused from above-mentioned situation; the board cannot as a result care about these fields.

Stationary expenses of the municipality board and district administration have reached 23 000 GEL. Larger part of it, 16 080 GEL was spent on paper. After analyzing these figures we would see that municipality board and district administration need 1 million sheets of paper a year that makes 3 831 sheets of paper a day. Even an ordinary person can guess that current municipality staff cannot use so many sheets of paper a day. 13,600 GEL is envisaged for the purchase of mono-credits for the personnel in municipality board and district administration. That means, local authority should speak 800 hours non-stop over mobile-phone. Abovementioned facts demonstrate that Sighnaghi municipality board does not care about daily problems of their population.

-You mentioned that more sums are spent from local budget on keeping administration than it was envisaged. What is the reason for similar situation?

-Nobody has drawn up program budget for several years; if such budget exists, extra incomes of the local budget will be spent only on social problems of local population and entire expenditure will be drawn up in advance. Existence of unplanned incomes in Sighnaghi district enables local authority to distribute it selfishly and increased the expenses for keeping the administration and it has happened several times already.

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