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Robbery in the Name of „Culture”

15.09.2007
 Budget money is spent on café-parties, presents to Governor’s wife and false garages.

Gurjaani Municipality has prepared convenient scheme for appropriating the budget funds-sometimes they apportioned money for guests who arrived in the region on trainings and then the Municipality staff arranged parties for them in cafes. Sometimes they allocated money on various state programs and then that money also disappeared. Georgian President made loud statement-“We are fighting the corruption together. Every public official, who will dare to appropriate state funds, will share the fate of Telavi district governor.” However, nobody remembers that statement now.

When and how did Gurjaani Municipality Governor and his deputy apportion state funds? How and with the support of whom are state funds wasted unreasonably? How officials hide their crimes? Why does the Municipality hide serious violations in Administrative Board? We carried out journalistic investigation to answer all these questions.

Parties at the expense of state budget

Resolution of Gurjaani Municipality Governor # 12: “I order to allocate 460 lari from the district budget based on the contract with “Gurjaani + Ltd” to serve guests. Financial-Economical Department (the head A. Kutibashvili) is ordered to carry out corresponding financial operations.” Governor Ramaz Kerechashvili. December 15, 2006.

The resolution is enclosed with the invoice sealed by the “Gurjaani + Ltd” dated by December 15 2006. It gives information about the names of guests and implemented work. We can read that from December 13 to December 15 2006, Hotel Rebi Gurjaani hosted representatives of the Ministry of Agriculture and World Bank; it cost 500 lari. 100 lari out of it was spent on the rent of conference hall and 400 lari was spent on the service of guests. The same resolution is enclosed with the deed prepared by the representatives of Gurjaani Municipality on November 1, 2006. According to the deed, the document was drawn up to prove that “representatives of the Ministry of Agriculture and World Bank visited the Administrative Board. Seminars on Bird Flu were held in the conference hall of the hotel “Gurjaani Rebi Ltd. 260 lari was spent on their nutrition and 240 lari was paid for their stay in hotel. In total it amounted to 500 lari.”

Amiran Okroshidze, deputy governor, Tamaz Abramishvili, the head of the administration, Nika Nizharadze, the head of the Analytical Department and Aleksandre Janiashvili, chief specialist confirmed the fact. It is strange how above-mentioned people knew a month earlier, how many people and exactly whom the hotel will host on December 15. How did they know what would be the topic of the seminar and how much the budget would apportion on that visit. Those officials did not want to answer these questions.

Nevertheless, representatives of the Ministry of Agriculture, Sofo Chakvetadze, Public Relation coordinator of the project in the framework of what the seminars were held in Gurjaani, said in her conversation with us that total expenses of those seminars at the hotel were paid by the ministry and not by any other bodies.

On December 15, representatives of the Administrative Board visited the hotel “Rebi Gurjaani”. They celebrated appointment of Ramaz Kerechashvili as a district governor in the restaurant of the hotel. But the money for the party was paid from the budget. That time head of the Gurjaani Municipality, Tamaz Abramishvili, said there was some mistake. “There is some mistake regarding the seminars on the Bird Flu. But is it great problem?” asked Abramishvili.

Gurjaani Governor’s resolution # 128 is dated by December 28, 2006. Governor repeats the same in the document and orders to apportion 700 lari from the Municipality budget to serve guests. This time the money is transferred to “Gaurja Ltd (a restaurant in the Gurjaani Culture and Rest Park). On December 28 public officials had another party in the restaurant; however the sum was allocated for the same purpose.

On the next day, on December 29, public officials had another party and paid bills from the budget. 600 lari was apportioned from the state budget onto Hotel Rebi Gurjaani under the governor’s resolution # 129.

Davit Papuashvili, director of the hotel, said that on December 29 representatives of the Administrative Board had a New Year Eve party in the restaurant. Tamaz Abramishvili does not deny that only board representatives attended the party. “Everybody who was in restaurant on that day will collect money and pay it back to the budget,” Abramishvili said little time ago. However, they have not done it yet.

Zhuzhuna Papunashvili, former lawyer of the Administrative Board, also confirms that Governor, his deputies and devoted officials, who enjoyed themselves in the restaurants at the expense of state budget.

“Nana Ramazashvili, the head of the Legal Department, was away and I occupied her place temporarily. The accountant of the Administrative Board brought a deed to me and I signed it. At that time, foreign guests really visited Kakheti region. Administrative Board was collecting information about them in order to apportion money on their service. I confirm the legality of 160 lari and if it is necessary I will return it back to the budget. Unlike others, I have signed only one deed,” said Papunashvili.

It was not the only way Governor and local public officials appropriated the budget money.

Zaza Kviralashvili, former director of the Culture Center: “I worked as a director of the center when Ana Kutibashvili, the head of the Financial-Economical Service Department, invited me to the quarter of the Deputy Governor, Valeri Vardosanidze. Kutibashvili told me the budget of Culture Center foresaw the expenses for guests’ service and I was to record the expenditure of 500 lari in it. Kutibashvili told me that the Administrative Board needed that money to pay restaurant bills. Vardosanidze demanded me to take out that money from the bank and give it to him in cash. Unless I agree his demand, I will have problems. But finally I did not sign anything. I do not know whether they took the money or not without me.”

On January 17 2007 two hundred lari was allocated from the budget on arranging strange café-party. According to the Administrative Board’s Culture Division no official party was planned by the Administrative Board.

On March 27, 2007 governor issued another resolution # 252 to transfer the money to fund Social Welfare. Jemal Sefiashvili, a resident of the village of Vejini is one among those who are on the list of people who accepted the allowances. Sefiashvili was an activist of National Movement and in exchange of his devotedness Kerechashvili employed him in Culture Center. We have personally heard the record of over-phone conversation where Sefiashvili pleads that he had not received any allowances and had not signed any documents.

A Present to Governor’s wife regarding Women’s Day on March 8 at the expense of the salaries of employees

Ramaz Kerechashvili, during his being in office, awarded and promoted several employees based on various reasons.

Female employees of the Gurjaani Municipality received a single money presents regarding the Women’s Day on March 8. According to the governor’s resolution # 152 each of them should have received 50 % of their salary as a present. However, that present must have been spent to buy gold jewelry for the wives of the Governor and his deputies. The head of the Financial-Economics Department collected the money among employees.

“Although I had to receive 135 lari, they gave me 125 lari. When I inquired about the reason, they told me that they were going to buy presents for the wives of the governor and his deputies. Maybe I wanted to pay more than ten lari why did not they ask me anything and took money from my salary without asking permission?” asked Tinatin Zardiashvili, former head of the Culture Service Division of the Administrative Board.

Later on, preliminary investigation started on the situation at the Gurjaani District Prosecutor’s Office. But as far as we know, Sandro Giorgashvili investigator Prosecutor of the case was suppressing the witnesses according to the Governor’s order and demanded them to refuse the facts. Consequently, only Zardiashvili stated that she had taken less salary.  Her right testimony caused problems for her. Later she took part in the competition for the position of the head of Social Service Department of the Administrative Board. However, Kote Martashvili, deputy chairman of the competition commission refused Zardiashvili to accept on the position because she was “supergrass”.

Under the governor’s resolution # 299 dated by April 5 2007, regarding the Easter Holiday, single money awards must have been granted to the employees of the Administrative Board, governor’s administration and various department. 13 110 lari was apportioned from the budget. The presents were given only to one part of employees and the rest money was appropriated. It is noteworthy that deceived employees learned about the fact after we got in touch with them to make comments. Despite that they refused to make any official statements. Early in September Governor warned every employee to fire unless they behave correctly. 

Since May to August of 2007 deputy governors Valeri Vardosanidze and Aleksi Navrozashvili, driver Ivane Natsarashvili, former employee of the Financial Department, Leneri Revazishvili, specialist for the Administration, Giorgi Jajanashvili, Vazisubani governor, Kartlos Korbesashvili, specialist for the Public Relations Department, Gela Megrelishvili, the head of the Legal Department, Konstantine Martashvuili (as soon as he was appointed to the position), Nino Kachlishvili and Tamar Martashvili-employees from the Financial-Budget Department were awarded.

It is noteworthy that nobody has seen Aleksi Navrozashvili for a long time in the Administrative Board. Employees say that he arrives in Gurjaani only when it is time to take his salary-600 lari. Despite that we could not discover any warning document on him signed by the governor.

Journalistic investigation showed that the governor has several drivers together. Ivane Natsarashvili, who is his relative, was accepted at the Administrative Board as specialist driver. Natsarashvili was driving the governor by his car. In March, patrol Police fined Natsarashvili because he was drunk while driving the car and seized license from him. However, under the governor’s resolution dated by March 29 2007 he was awarded with one month salary for perfect work. Under the governor’s resolution # 196 “out of professional necessity” Natsarashvili was given mobile phone with the price of 495 lari though its real price was 970 lari. On March 30 2007, after three-month-probation-period Natsarashvili was fired. However, in order not to leave him without salary, on March 30 he and Administrative Board signed a contract and he was appointed as a specialist for the Administrative Board; he left his job on April 26. There is no information regarding Natsarashvili’s work record at the Administration. The reason is that he has not worked a single day as a specialist there.

Meanwhile, the governor hired another relative, former policeman, Nikoloz Chanturidze. His wife, Izo Chanturidze, who is the head of the Commercial Union “Kabadoni”, was granted with illegal space of 50 sq. meters in the Gurjaani Culture Center for
Free.

“On June 1, 2007, Culture Center and Union “Kabadoni” signed a contract on assigning the space of 50 sq. meters in Culture Center’s building to Kabadoni for free. The contract has very general character. The Union is carrying out very intensive tutorial activities, is giving private computer lessons and has not paid electricity bills for many months. However, in June the Culture Center paid 1000 lari for electricity bill,” said Aleksandre Sirbilashvili, Deputy Chairman of Gurjaani Municipality.

Ramaz Kerechashvili did not forget about Chanturidze’s unemployed son and appointed him as a lawyer at the Culture Center. However, the center is subordinate organization of the Administrative Board and it must enjoy the service of lawyers from the Legal Department of the Administrative Board.

Certain G. Kalabegashvili is also mentioned on the list of employees. Officials of the Administrative Board heard about that person for the first time from us. The head of the administration remembered about him a bit later.

“We do not have such employee…G. Kalabegashvili? No, I am sure we do not have such employee. But, wait a moment, yes we had; he worked as a driver in the Infrastructure Service Department. Since the board purchased a new car and old one was assigned to the Infrastructure Service,” said current head of the Administration, Vasiko Utiashvili. In fact, the car with its driver, Kalibegashvili was serving Deputy Governor, Valeri Vardosanidze.

Kalibegashvili was hired on April 27 2007 and was dismissed on July 31 2007.

Nobody demanded to build a car-park  

On March 28 2007 Gurjaani Municipality and Building Company, Ltd signed a contract on the construction of a car park for Fire Brigade of the Gurjaani Municipality. According to Governor’s resolution # 257 dated by March 29 2007, the Building Company, Ltd was apportioned 19 500 lari for the purpose. Before that they drew estimate for the construction. Place and date of signing the document is unidentified. According to the Telavi zone Tax Inspection, Building Company, Ltd was registered a few days before the contract was signed and Davit Tabagari is the head of the Ltd. The address of the organization is Noneshvili Street 10 in Gurjaani; however, there is a residential house, People’s Bank and Beauty Saloon on that address; there is no Ltd there.

Governor Kerechashvili does not deny that he is close to Tabagari. According to one of the chapters of the contract, the Building Company Ltd was apportioned 75 % of the foreseen sum, that is 14 615 lari, in advance. The contract states that the contractor company had to build the car park within a month, on April 28 2007. The contract date expired on that day too.

Tabagari stated that the construction activities prolonged because of heavy rains. However, according to the Hydrometer Center, it rained only a few days in Gurjaani and there were not heavy rains at all.

In fact, hired workers refused to work on the construction because they had to receive their wages in advance. The workers claimed that the construction stopped in April because the company had not purchased construction materials.

We got in touch with Tabagari several times during the prolonged construction who asked us not to write anything regarding the fact before our meeting. “Let’s meet and arrange everything. Let’s speak and I believe we will reach some agreement,” Tabagari was persuading us over the phone. However, he was avoiding personal meeting all the time. Then he informed us via his close people that the reason for the prolonged construction was lack of money. As we had found out the money was transferred to the Building Company but the governor had appropriated it too. In exchange of it he promised Tabagari to support him to win tenders. Meanwhile, Tabagari finished the construction of the car-park that was made of three low-grade walls and old slate roof. The Administrative Board signed the deed on reception with Building Company Ltd without any problems.

They could not give detailed information why the construction of Fire Brigade Car park had become necessary in Gurjaani because the board of the Fire Brigade had not petitioned regarding the problem. Officials could not explain why the building company was allowed to start construction after the contract time expired. Afterwards, the same company was ordered to build the roof of Gurjaani Resource Center, reconstruction of the façade and outer communications. 6120 lari was officially apportioned on the purpose. It must be pointed out that the resource center was opened several months before the reconstruction and 30 000 lari was spent on its thorough repairs.

Salaries in Advance

Taking salaries in advance is very common in the Administrative Board. Valeri Vardosanidze, Deputy Governor, has already taken his September and October salaries. Ana Kutibashvili, the head of the Financial-Economics Department, explained that it is a reasonable to take salaries in advance once or twice a year. However, she is obeying orders.

This year, Nika Nizharadze and Irakli Mindiashvili, employees of the Administrative Board, were given their two-month-salary in advance. Then Vardosanidze took that money from them as we have heard. In private talks Nizharadze and Mindiashvili did not deny the fact; moreover, they said it was suppression. “Unless we gave him the money, we would have the money. He said he had to pay some debts and had to pay them. However, he has not returned that sum to us yet,” said one of them.

Andro Giashvili was fired from work because he refused to assist Vardosanidze. “In March, the whole staff of the Administrative Board collected ten lari to assist Vardosanidze who was in bad need of money. I definitely know that one of our employees, Giashvili, refused to support him; others also complained about the situation; though they paid the money. We have been demanded once in two months to send our resignations before that fact and afterwards too; then they used those documents very well to blackmail us if we refused to pay money,” said chief specialist of the Administration, who preferred to stay anonymous.

We got in touch with Andro Giashvili but he did not comment on the situation.

Officials categorically deny accusations against them

“That information is slanderous and false,” claimed Kerechashvili and Vardosanidze. They do not have answers to those questions that are mentioned in this particular investigation. 

Regarding the violation, Tamaz Abramashvili, the Chairman of the Gurjaani Municipality pointed out that the governor was given several remarks and the Municipality will monitor his activities. “Alongside that, Financial-Budget Commission of the Municipality started the monitoring of the legality and reasonability of the expenses made on the improvement of infrastructure in the district. Later, we will publish the results. As for self-interest and illegal activities, it is not within our competence to study similar violations,” said the Chairman of the Municipality.

Gela Mtivlishvili, Kakheti   

 

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