BUSINESS
The RAP’s rap sheet
08 September, 2011

Rural Aid Program of Georgian government initiated in 2009 and disbursing millions to municipalities needs better management skills and budget control mechanism. Such a conclusion was drawn based on the monitoring of Economic Policy Research Center (EPRC), a non-governmental watchdog, implemented starting October of 2010 till in past May in 50 villages throughout Georgia. The monitoring aimed to define how relevant the Rural Aid Program (RAP) was and how effectively it has spent Georgian tax-payers money. Moreover, the non-governmental watchdog was to

insure involvement of local population and media in the rural program development.

The state initiated RAP program aimed to finance the rehabilitation and maintenance infrastructure in the villages that have substantial social-economic importance. GEL 20 million was earmarked as the RAP budget in 2009, and although nobody has assessed its effect up to this here research the budget increased to GEL 40-40 in 2010 and 2011. Several advertisements were shot and rolled at TV channels screening happy people who praised the rural aid program against the backdrop of blooming landscape.

The more realistic effect of the RAP activities according to the EPRC monitoring is that the Program lacks management skills, funds spending control mechanism and public awareness.

Only 21-35% of rural population participated in the program development. RAP priorities have been outlined by local municipalities and small groups of villagers while bigger part of population was ignorant of its role and rights in the program and remained passive.

Planning of RAP priorities meantime was quite unrealistic and incompetent. Several priorities have been outlined based on limited funding usually and no target was achieved ultimately. The RAP spending control mechanism seems dubious; no initiative groups monitoring expenditures were created in most villages and population questions reasonability of money spending.

The top point of implemented works in frames of the RAP program is road rehabilitation however the EPRC monitoring found out that in most cases the modest RAP funding did not enable to meet this target. The rehabilitation works mainly included gravelling of roads or filling pits with gravel. Accordingly, no long-term effect targeted by RAP program has been achieved and in some villages roads graveled in 2009 were washed away in 2010.

Top priority of RAP program obviously falls on development and maintenance of village inbound roads and water sewerage. However as far as these problems require significant finances bigger than that provided by the RAP, villages preferred to spend RAP funding on trifler things like rehabilitation of rite house or procurement rite inventory, some villages decided to rail cemeteries.

The declared RAP principles [that works financed by RAP must achieve a long-term effect or employ as much villagers as possible] were violated. In some villages RAP targeted works were implemented partly or not implemented altogether.

“In 2010, GEL 30 950 was earmarked to finance five priorities in village Chandari, Kakheti region, only 20% of works are implemented at the moment, and no village meeting was held…In village Maglaki, Imereti region, GEL 62 thousand was disbursed to finance two priorities: rehabilitation of garden and purchase of sewerage pipes, both are implemented only partly… in Ajara GEL 7122 was spent to rehabilitate school building in Zesopeli, Keda district [since the funding was insufficient to solve acuter problems including sewerage] however the rehabilitation works were not completed, the school still lacks toilet. Notwithstanding the booklet published by Keda district reported of works as completed. ” this is an incomplete part of the RAP’s rap sheet provided by the EPRC.

The work quality is also under question mark. Village Avistavi in Kobuleti, Ajara spent GEL 2400 on rehabilitation of village club in 2010 however the broken inventory furnishes the club and its roof sill leaks.

Irrespective the RAP program shortcomings about 80% of the rural population of Georgia find apt to continue the program.

“One of the top priorities of the program is adequate reaction on village needs and development of local municipalities’ management skills. The program partly does respond these targets,” Nino Evgenidze, a spokesperson of EPRC told Georgian Journal. “Therefore people want it to go ahead. However without correction the program it may get astray of its main goal.”

To this end EPRC recommends government to enhance population inclusion in the project, improve priority planning skills [in some cases the RAP program chooses priorities that fall either in competence of the state budget or private structures] and make it more detailed. Responsibilities against the RAP funding spending must be outlined clearer and the control mechanisms adjusted – an initiative group is advised to be created which will make account on the RAP program implementation against the village. The EPRC presumes that development of community leadership institute and public financing control mechanisms might remove many problems.

 

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