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Sidewalks and Side-deals: Characteristic Feature for Pre-Election Campaign

April 1, 2008

Nana Pazhava, Zugdidi

Pre-election campaign is starting out with the removal of broken sidewalks and ends with the laying of a new layer of concrete or tiles, which will need replacement the next election. Habits are hard to break, especially when the local government maintains the same traditions as to what has gone before. Now it is all busy work and the central part of the city is getting dug in the run-up to May parliamentary elections. It is clear that locals have already their fill with everything dug up, and it has been a four-season mess in town, and they look forward to a time when the never-ending work will be ended. It is not only the main street in town that is a mess but such work has invaded some of the side streets as well.

Residents of the main Avenue are not happy with the pace or the quality of the work and most of this discontent is focused in the direction of Aleksandre Kobalia, the district governor,

Lamara Kankia: “Our government deserves to fall and break its neck! What the hell is going on?! I cannot walk on the pavement, not to speak about the square. It is bad that I am disabled and always fearful of falling down. I cannot walk through the scrubs either as there are heaps of sand there too.”

Nugzar Sharia: “The reason for permanent renovation of pavements to replace the half-ass work that was done earlier. It is doing the same job over and over again.  It cannot be blamed on the workers as it is the government that is supposed to be supervising the work. Governmental staff is too occupied with more important things. They are either preoccupied by elections, or preparing for the arrival of president-elect Saakashvili, or making plans for the New Year. It is no wonder why everything is such a mess and nobody manages to finish what has been started. It is clear that part of the problem is that asphalt cannot be paved in snow and rain?! Just how many times should they remove the same paving and do the work for a second time?’’

Zugdidi residents have already lost count how many times the local government started renovation of side-walks throughout the city. They fully understand that this is a never-ending job and as if they work is organized in such a way that workers will always be employed.  Citizens also remember that nearly 15 public officials lost their jobs and ended up in jail over the first quality renovation work. It would seem that that the new officials would be more motivated. Nonetheless, now the local government wants to impose the full extent of the responsibility on those companies that are conducting on-going repairs. However, officials do not say anything about the fact that they give those companies direct directions about the length of the work and other details.

The same situation can be said  about the so-called "dancing fountain’’  that was installed by the “Imobiliare Ltd”; and how the company was forced to finish the pavement of the surrounding area just before the Presidential Elections that was held on January 5.  More precisely, it was to be finished before the arrival of Mikheil Saakashvili, who met voters in the area. The implemented work turned out of poor quality and substandard. It was completed in the heavy rain and at the last minute.

Davit Esebua, the head of the City Construction and Architect Service Department, said that the municipality board did not accept the fountain because of its poor quality. “Imobiliare” funded the construction works itself and the final product was of low standard. Moreover, they were unable to finish the construction within the estimated time required. The local government had to finish several construction projects before the New Year and arrange a presentation of those buildings as part of the political process. If the constructor breaches the deadline, it should be responsible for paying a fine….”

Emzar Erangia, the head of the City Public Service Department, does not agree with the half completed work and they blame half-way acknowledgment of the architect. “They wanted to hand in the fountain before the New Year and the result was poor because of being in a rush. Thus, the “Imobiliare Ltd” should bear the responsibility of reconstructing the fountain with its own money. Moreover, and according to the terms of the contract, the company might be faced with fines as well.”

The parties might have disagreement based on the contract and level of fines. However, the content of the contract is strange because it became impossible for the Human Rights Center to get a copy of it. The total amount of the apportioned money from the state budget on the purpose is also unknown. The order-maker states the apportioned money was 1,125 000 GEL but the construction company states they received 1,200 000GEL.

Irakli Dzagania, the director of the “Imobiliare Ltd” refuses to speak about the conditions of the contract. However, he cannot help holding back his anger over penalties. “The sidewalks, which were prepared in the factory of Samtredia, turned out to be of very bad quality. It was revealed after they installed the New Year tree on the fountain and the heavy truck moved on the just-laid tiles. The tiles shifted and low spots were obvious and then water collected. I am not the one that should be fined. I do not care what Esebua and Erangia have said. They should only worry about their own faults, and not to speak about my activities; bad quality and missing the deadlines. There needs to be more qualified experts.”