Control Chamber’s Limitless Power Should Be Curbed
16 February, 2012

 

The new competence of Chamber of Control of Georgia to check finances of both natural and legal entities, allegedly connected with political figures, must be curbed as its mandate is vague and breaches constitution.

 

Georgian non-governmental watchdogs think the enhanced competence of the Chamber of Control of Georgia (CCG) granted by amendments to the law on Political Union of Citizens must be restricted in precisely elaborated legal framework otherwise the CCG can probe financial affairs of any person and NGO that

may lead to violation of freedom of property and expression.

As a matter of fact CCG already requested financial information from two Georgian NGOs – New Generation-New Initiative (NGNI) and the Republican Institute on February 8, 2012 and demanded submitting of the requested paper in a three-day course. CCG demanded financial information of the past year on the Republican Institute from Republican Party too as far as, according to Natia Mogeladze, Head of Financial Monitoring Service of Political Parties of CCG, political parties have an obligation to present financial information on legal entities connected with it. NGNI and Republican Institute submitted information but Republican Party turned down the claim explaining the refusal by gap in the law. Moreover, the law that empowers CCG to enforce control of the party-related entities’ financial affairs entered into effect starting this past January and it has no back effect to demand data of 2011.

“The law does not oblige political parties to disclose information on legal entities affiliated with parties,” Tina Khidasheli, member of Tbilisi City Hall and Spokesperson of Republican Party, said in the interview with Georgian Journal. “Moreover, the law does not include clear definition how connection between political parties and legal entities are outlined.”

The CCG probed papers and informed on February 13 that NGNI is not affiliated with political parties/figures while the Republican Institute is connected with Republican Party and subdues to financial monitoring.

Khidasheli wonders how CCG discerns this difference between NGNI and the Republican Institute however as far as her colleague Koki Iotanamashvili of ruling party appears one of the co-founders of NGNI just like Khidasheli is one of founders of the Republican Institute.

“Let the CCG outline first where this difference line goes in the law. I have founded 14 NGOs during my lifetime and are now all of them supposed to fall under CCG control? Or, if so why the NGNI founded by Iotanamashvili is not party-related, and if Freedom Institute founded by Giga Bokeria [one of the leaders of ruling party and head of Security Council of Georgia] will be also under monitoring?” she asked.

CCG was empowered to check money circulation in the state budget-based institutions generally except political parties [financed from the state budget] that fall within the competence of the Central Election Committee (CEC) however amendments made to the law on Political Union of Citizens by end-December of 2011 extended CCG power and allowed to control financial affairs of political parties as well as any person and legal entity affiliated with political parties through direct or indirect connections.

According to Pavle Kublashvili, Head of Legal Committee at Parliament, through this measure the state insures transparency of political parties’ financing.

According to Eka Gigauri, an analyst with Transparency International Georgia (TI Georgia), financing of political parties should be controlled but through the mechanism worked out in consensus with all political parties while the ruling party National Movement took a subjective decision and assigned this control to CCG without consent of other parties’.

NGOs also worry that the law needs clearer definition of connection between political parties and natural/legal entities to elaborate stricter terms what “direct and indirect relation with political parties” mean and limit the CCG discretion enhanced on the expense of interests of civil sector.

In the joint NGO-statement of the International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy (ISFED), the Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association (GYLA) and TI Georgia published on January 27, 2012 warned that the December 2011 amendments to the organic Law on the Political Union of Citizens and the Criminal Code of Georgia “jeopardize freedom of expression and freedom of property and will have a restrictive effect on civil-political activities. Furthermore, most of the legal prohibitions imposed are unreasonable, the sanctions disproportionate and it creates an uneven election environment”.

More specifically, the new law introduces the notion that a natural or legal entity “related to a party”, will be subject to the very same prohibitions and regulations that apply to political parties. For instance, natural or legal entities who are deemed as such, have no right to receive income from entrepreneurial activities, whereas income received from any other activities may not exceed GEL 60 thousand per year. The party-related entities also have no right to receive a credit from natural or legal entities and transparency of their financial activities will be monitored by the CCG.

“Our key concern is that some paragraphs in the law on Political Union of Citizens are quite loose granting the CCG by limitless authority. First of all it is difficult to understand how it is possible to ascertain that physical or legal entities are related with political parties. The law does not provide with detailed description of such connection terms,” Gigauri said in the interview with GJ. ” Furthermore, the ambiguous and extensive nature of norms, make selective and subjective enforcement of the law inevitable. The law also fails to regulate procedures in the decision-making process that determine whether a natural or legal entity is related to a political party, and fails to regulate the rules for appealing the decision. The core problem is that such details are not provided in secondary legislation either that generally specify and elaborate law terms/discretion.”

The law imposes significant restrictions on natural persons for expressing their political opinions, whereas civil servants and officials are subject to minimum restrictions when implementing policies of agitation.

The law negligently regulates issues related to the seizure or sequestration of property that poses an actual threat to property rights. For instance, the law allows for the transfer of funds into the ownership of state even when the receiver of these funds may be unaware of their unlawfulness.

Another core concern is that granting CCG by power to control non-governmental finances breaches Georgian constitution that empowers CCG to control only the state-budget-based institutions.

Non -governmental organizations concerned by CCG decision held a meeting with CCG on February 10, 2012 to find out how CCG makes up its mind to decide whether or not a person/legal entity is related with political parties or handles with its limitless competence.

CCG answer was the decision will be based on a common sense. They counter that no breach of constitution takes place as far as it provides CCG by broader authority that allows implementing control in order to make party financing transparent. Although CCG agreed that the law needs to get clearer and promised to start talks with government on amendments to this end. However government seems reluctant to changes.

“No norms of the questioned law can be misused in order to violate any right including property or freedom of expression,” Kublashvili said. “As the CCG activity shows nothing has been violated…just financing of political parties will be getting more transparent.”

But according to the joint statement of NGOs the way CCG requested disclosure of financial information from the Republican Institute and NGNI clearly illustrates the threat to civil society activities. They demand to curb the limitless and anti-constitutional power of the CCG. CCG does not provide with timely comments.

 

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