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Transparency International Presents Complex Picture of Georgian Institutions

By Ernest Petrosyan
Tuesday, October 25
Ending research spanning two years, Transparency International Georgia has released a report entitled “Georgia National Integrity System Assessment”. The study involves an analysis of the 12 main institutions that play a key role in terms of promoting good governance and preventing corruption in the country.

Recognized widely, National Integrity System (NIS) studies are conducted throughout the world according to a methodology developed by the Transparency International Secretariat. The Georgia National Integrity System Assessment was carried out between 2009-2011 and this is the first time its results have been released.

Newly published, a significant part of the report refers to the assessment of Georgian media. The report reads that the government has enacted the most progressive and liberal laws governing the establishment and operation of media entities, while in practice the media remains less transparent, accountable and independent.

Evidently, the report says, degrees of independence varies across different types of media, as well as between those based in the capital and those in the regions. It is however mentioned that printed media, radio and online outlets generally operate freely in Georgia. The reports highlights that the government has not resorted to censorship but is generally understood to have established control over the country's most influential TV stations through their acquisition by government-friendly businessmen, forcing journalists employed by these stations to practice self-censorship.

Some of the report refers to the law enforcement agencies, which, according to the report improved the material and human resources aspects due to ample funding from the state budget.

The report says that “the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the Prosecutor's Office are among the country's most powerful and influential agencies, although they are still occasionally used for promoting the partisan interests of political leadership. The anti-corruption activities of the law enforcement agencies have resulted in a virtual eradication of bribery in the public administration. At the same time, problems remain in terms of the transparency and accountability of these agencies”.

What is more, according to the report, Georgia has a number of legal provisions designed to ensure the judiciary’s independence, which however, suffers from undue influence exerted by the Prosecutors Office and the executive branch during the adjudication of criminal cases where the political leadership's interests are at stake. The report, however, finds some positive aspects of the judiciary, which mainly includes the budget dramatically increasing, which in its turn increased salaries, improved infrastructure, equipment and staff.

Also, the document looks at opposition parties. According to it, nonetheless, Georgian legislation provides freedom to establish and further the operation of political parties, while in practice an extremely uneven distribution of resources between the ruling party and the opposition undermines effective political competition.

Notwithstanding the fact that parties normally operate without government pressure, there have been cases of intimidation and violence against opposition activists which have not been addressed properly by law enforcers. Political parties also lack effective procedures for internal democratic governance and their ability to aggregate and represent social interests is very limited.

Keeping with the format of other NIS reports, the report also looks at the business environment where a similar picture is given. There is a very benign legal framework in place to start in business, as registration is simple and the burden of the government is small. However, here also, practice shows that the absence of a fully independent judiciary and the resulting lack of protection against unwarranted government interference and infringements on property rights sometimes undermine the independence of the private sector.

Emphasizing the importance of the legislature, the report finds that this institution is presently incapable of effectively using oversight powers set out in the law, mainly because of its current composition with little opposition party representatives and the parliamentary majority closely tied to the executive. As for positives, according to Transparency International the legal provisions governing parliament's capacity and governance are generally adequate, as are the availability of resources and transparency of the legislature's work in practice.

Rather than presenting a straightforward analysis, the overall picture of the report is paradoxical. At first glance, the legislation is perfectly designed to build the right structures, however, in practice everything comes into contradiction with it.