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Before the Elections, Funds Allocated for Local Self-Governemnts Are Seriously Increased

Gela Mtivlishvili

 Before the elections, funds allocated for the local self-governments from the central budget have seriously increased – it is said in the report of the Transparency International – Georgia; the report is about the use of administrative resources for the pre-elections campaign. According to the report, the number of personnel at the Tbilisi City Hall as well as in the district administrations of the regions of Georgia has noticeably increased.

2010 State budget was increased by 0,9% in comparison to the 2009 state budget, however, budget priorities have changed: funding for general state services, economic activities, healthcare and education was increased; in parallel to it, funding of other fields was reduced. In 2010, state budget has envisaged 836, 9 million GEL for autonomous republic and local self-governments that is 214, 4 million GEL more than it was last year. Self-governments have never received such huge transfers before.

“Transfer and total budget for Tbilisi City Hall are also unprecedented. Tbilisi received 323 million GEL as transfers. This sum is 61, 8 % of all the transfers made for all local self-governments throughout Georgia. In total, 2010 budget of Tbilisi is 570, 8 million GEL,” said program director of the Transparency International – Georgia, Nina Khatiskatsi.

Khatiskatsi said that the initial 2010 budget for Tbilisi (approved on December 28, 2009) was much less. On February 22, 2010 amendments were made to the budget and expenses were increased by 58, 1 Million GEL. Based on the changes, the number of personnel at the Tbilisi City Hall increased by 410 GEL and the salary fund by 5,5 Million GEL. The funds for the purchase of office supplies and other services were also increased by 34, 2 million GEL and social welfare by 63, 1 million GEL.

According to the 2010 state budget, in comparison to the last year, the expenses of regional administrations were noticeably increased. Mainly, it was connected with the increased number of personnel at the administrations, and more precisely, with the creation of the services for the management of urgent situations for what salary funds were also increased.

It is noteworthy, that management of fire and other emergency situations is exclusive right of the local self-governments and they have corresponding services for that purpose.

“This amendment contradicts the initiative of the President of Georgia when he advised local officials “to tighten their belts”. That meant, to restrict bureaucratic agencies which would have resulted into the decrease of administration expenses, personnel and salary funds. Maybe, the government employs new people with the support of budget funds who will be involved in the pre-election campaign,” said Khatiskatsi.

One more issue which was highlighted in the report is the funding of the activities which are not generally funded during non-election year.

“Based on the resolution of the Tbilisi City Hall, from March 1, 2010 retired residents of the capital will receive their pensions increased by 10 GEL. It will be funded from the City Hall budget and 19, 9 million GEL is allocated for the purpose. Other local self-governments did not have similar initiatives. Similar decision contradicts the Organic Law on Local Self-Government of Georgia which states that pension policy is not within competence of the local self-government; on the other hand, retired people living in the regions were discriminated. Tbilisi City Hall made similar discriminative decision before the self-governmental elections in 2006. Then, the City Hall initiated to increase the pensions of the residents of the capital by 5 GEL.

One more resolution of the Tbilisi City Hall aims to distribute personal transportation cards to 167 271 pensioners living in the capital; with the card they will be able to travel cheaper by underground and bus; 3,5 million GEL will be allocated for the purpose from the city budget.

Besides that, the City Hall initiated to assign 25 GEL voucher to the retired people for medicines; 4 million GEL was allocated from the state budget for the purpose. The retired people received vouchers for medicines in 2006 too.  In 2007 and in 2009 people did not receive similar vouchers. Similar assistance to every retired person regardless of their monthly income contradicts the reform in the social assistance implemented by the government in 2006. Based on the reform, the criteria for granting the allowance are not separate categories like pensioner, single mother, disabled people, war veterans, etc, but social conditions of the families and their need in the state assistance (regardless of the fact that they are retired, disabled, etc). The Tbilisi City Hall implements social programs which contradict state system of social assistance. Besides that, representatives of the ruling party actively participate in the implementation of the social programs funded from the state budget,” stated the report.

Unlike previous year, in the 2010 state budget the funding of the Rural Aid programs was also increased and 40 million GEL was allocated for the purpose while it was only 20 million GEL last year.

Nina Khatiskatsi: “On January 13, 2010 the government of Georgia enacted resolution # 41 “to allocate funds for the local self-governmental institutions from the state budget within the Rural Aid program; the sum was distributed to various regions. Based on the same resolution, the government ordered the local self-governments to purchase corresponding works through the negotiation with single person in order to finish the work in a short time. As a rule, Rural Aid Programs funds local infrastructure and other problems of the rural area. Similar activities, except some exceptions, are not very urgent. Thus, the works shall be purchased based on more concrete and open competitions. In the last non-election year, the government did not order the local self-governments to purchase works through the negotiation only with single person. It casts serious doubt that rapid activities are connected with the elections scheduled in May.”

According to the document, state budget for 2010 envisaged 91 million GEL for the projects planned in the regions of Georgia. According to the resolution # 40 of the government of Georgia issued on January 13, 2010 66 million GEL was allocated from the fund for the local self-governments. The funds shall be spent on activities like reconstruction of the village roads; street light and pavements; reconstruction of squares and parks; rehabilitation of the water and sewerage systems; repair of the roofs and lifts of multi-storied residential houses; reconstruction of the sport grounds; rehabilitation of the institutions beyond public schools; and other local infrastructural activities.

“Funding of the most of similar activities is exclusive rights of the local self-government according to the Georgian law, and local self-governments shall have corresponding sums in their budgets for the purpose,” states the report.

Regarding the report of the Transparency International Georgia, official of the Tbilisi City Hall Koki Ionatamishvili reported to the Radio Liberty that “the implementation of any of the launched projects shall not be reduced because they are designed for the welfare of hundreds of thousands of Tbilisi dwellers; the City Hall will not stop functioning because the elections are approaching.”

The government does not agree with the report of the international non-governmental organization. Secretary General of the National Movement Zurab Melikishvili, who simultaneously is the chairman of the financial-budget parliamentary committee, stated “the funding has not increased; it just seems to be increased.”

“Figures are changed because of the new formula of transfer which was approved when the 2010 budget was approved. As for the local self-governments, they have their exclusive rights and if the budget enables them, they can increase pensions and distribute medical policies too,” said Melikishvili.

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