Defense Minister Outlines Priorities at Parliamentary Hearing
By Ana Robakidze
Thursday, November 21
The Parliament of Georgia began the hearings on cabinet members, before they faced a vote of confidence. Irakli Alasania appeared at the joint hearing of parliamentary committees for defense, human rights and procedural issues to speak about the priorities and challenges of the Defense Ministry.
Defense Minister Irakli Alasania told lawmakers that improving infrastructure in most of the military units across the country was one of the most urgent priorities. He outlined that logistics and military education are also among the priority areas of the Defense Ministry.
Alasania stressed that creating adequate conditions for soldiers is the primary task of the Defense Ministry. With this aim, important infrastructural projects are being implemented in all the military units to be finished at the end of the year.
In his opening remarks, Irakli Alasania stressed the reforms in the procurement system by increasing its accountability and transparency.
“I’d like to highlight several priorities – first and foremost for us was to create a system of transparency and accountability that would eliminate the risks of maintaining the closed system. Therefore, our relationship with the Parliament of Georgia and Parliamentary Committee on Defense and Security Issues is exceptionally important and valuable for us. This empowers the legislative body and civil society with the leverage and mechanisms to be actively involved and monitor the ongoing reforms in the Georgian Army. It was very important for me to create the controlling mechanisms of financial resources and achieve financial transparency. The law initiated by us and approved by the Parliament of Georgia authorizes you to control each tetri spent by the Defense Ministry,” declared Irakli Alasania.
Under the legislative amendments initiated by the MoD, it obligates to report to the parliamentary committee for defense and security about every unclassified procurement worth over GEL 2 million. MoD will also have to submit annual reports about procurements to the parliamentary committee for defense and security, according to the proposal.
In his speech, the Defense Minister focused on the improvement of the social package for the military servicemen. As a part of it, the salaries of both military and civil office staff were increased.
“It has served as a stimulus for the 95% of military personnel whose term of contract is expiring to continue service in the army,” said the minister.
Irakli Alasania paid attention to the development of a special program for the wounded soldiers as well. He said that this program will improve the health condition of the military with amputated limbs.
The Defense Minister stressed that during the procurements, the focus will be made on defensive armaments, improvement of defense capabilities and giving the Georgian army a deterrent role. He publicly stated that Georgia plans to resolve conflicts with peaceful means. “Thus, we should have such armed forces to be able to respond to each complicated security challenge."
When asked about the suspension of the construction of defensive fortifications, the Defense Minister said:
“The decision to suspend the construction of defensive fortifications has been taken by the military. Some of them need to be completed in order to be used for military purposes. I was very surprised at the statements of the President of Georgia revealing the locations and purpose of the fortifications. I believe the military know better what kind of engineering and military infrastructure is needed to fulfill their duties. I try not to interfere much in such concrete military decisions. As the minister, I should ensure their independence politically and financially and provide them with all the necessary tools to defend our country,” declared Irakli Alasania.
Irakli Alasania outlined veterans' issues as well while addressing the MPs. Under the initiative of the Defense Ministry, the Veterans’ Affairs Department will be set-up as an independent structure very soon. He highlighted that under the initiative of the Georgian Government and through the support of the parliament, a law has been adopted according to which the families of Georgian soldiers fallen in battle will receive 500 GEL monthly from 2014 as reimbursement. This sum will rise to 1,000 GEL after 2015.
At the end of the speech, Irakli Alasania emphasized the special contribution Georgian peacekeepers carry out on the international missions. He outlined that NATO member countries agree with the Georgian Armed Forces to participate in the NRF in 2015. This is a result of the professionalism that the Georgian contingent has demonstrated in Afghanistan. “This is reflected in a confidence declared by international society towards Georgia and the Georgian Army. The efforts of our brave soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq will derive its outcome.”
Irakli Alasania referred to the free and democratic presidential Elections recently held in Georgia and the importance of a political Georgian Armed Forces. He expressed hope that the steps forward in this direction will be maintained in the future.
At the end of his speech, candidate of Defense Minister stated that he is proud of being a member of the political team. A she outlined the government will continue to carry out the tasks effectively in security and stable environment.