Parliament passed on June 27 with its first reading package of legislative amendments envisaging decoupling of security and intelligence agencies from the Interior Ministry.
A separate agency, State Security Service, should be set up from August 1, according to the government-proposed plan, which was debated in the Parliament on June 12 and which has yet to be endorsed with its second and third reading.
Parliament Discusses Interior Ministry Reform
Among some other units, counter-terrorism center; counter-intelligence; anti-corruption agency; operative-technical department, which is eavesdropping agency in charge of surveillance operations, and special operations department will be separated from the Interior Ministry to form the State Security Service.
A candidate for head of the State Security Service will be selected by Prime Minister and after approval by the government members, nomination will be submitted to the Parliament for confirmation, according to the package of bills, which includes amendments to 55 laws.
A candidate will need support of at least 76 lawmakers in the 150-seat Parliament to be confirmed as head of the State Security Service for a six-year term; this procedure of confirmation is not yet part of the proposed package, but will be laid out in parliament’s procedures and possibly in the proposed bill as well, according to GD lawmakers.
In case of a failure to gain support of the Parliament, the same candidate can be re-nominated, but if rejected by lawmakers again, another candidate should be selected.
Head of the State Security Service can serve only one six-year term in office.
The Parliament will also have power to sack the head of the service, who has to deliver report to lawmakers once in a year. A detailed procedure of voting head of the service out of office has yet to be drafted by the Parliament.
If the Parliament fails to confirm a candidate of the agency by August 1 – the date when the State Security Service should be established, the PM will appoint an acting head, who will serve before approval of a candidate by the legislative body.
Deputy heads of the State Security Service will be appointed by the Prime Minister.
The planned State Security Service, with about 4,000 employees, will require funding of GEL 36.7 million in a period between August and year’s end. This amount of funding will be allocated from the Interior Ministry’s 2015 GEL 638.7 million budget.
In a joint statement on June 24, a group of eight civil society organizations have welcomed an initiative to separate police and security agencies from each other, but said that the proposed draft fails to provide for “functional” decoupling of the security agencies from the Interior Ministry.
One of the main concerns voiced by the group is related to potential duplication of functions between the Interior Ministry and the planned State Security Service. The rights groups argue that the scope of the planned security agency’s authority should only be analytical and intelligence gathering functions, because giving security agencies the right to carry out law enforcement tasks would pose a risk of abuse of power and duplication of traditional police activities.
The Interior Ministry officials, as well as some of those GD lawmakers, who were also voicing critical remarks about potential duplication of functions, said that these concerns would be addressed in the bill by the time of its second reading.