Corruption Scheme of Mayor’s Office
08 December, 2011
Corruption Scheme of Mayor’s Office

Businessman Bidzina Ivanishvili reacts to Press Distribution Problem

Print media distribution has been halted. Dozens of people are  fired  from  their jobs. This is a result of the new project of the Mayor’s Office, code named “1000 booths”. Press booths have been dismantled en mass across the capital. Most of the press booth locations “happen” to overlap with the new booth locations sold at the auction. If we take into account that ”there are still a lot to sell”, we are

in for more “coincidences”.

 

The locations cleared of the press booths have not been filled with new booths so far. However, names of some winners are already on the table. Accordingly, it is easy to guess that these booths would not sell newspapers, if anything. Kumisi XXI Company was awarded the right to install booths in exchange of 10-17 thousand Lari. 22 locations went to Koda, the manufacturer of chicken products, who similarly indicated 10-30 thousand Lari, the unrealistically high rent.

Sulkhan Saladze (Lawyer of Georgian Young Lawyers Association): “The agreement, as well as its particular provisions, which is concluded by the Mayor’s Office with the winner companies, has a room enough for different legal interpretations. For example, while the terms regulating the use of the property may be revised in case of inflation, there are no specific inflation figures defined (one, two or more percent?). It is entirely up to the winning companies to define. What is more, the agreements provide for an opportunity when both sides may jointly define new rent figures depending on the change of economic situation. Though, the term “change of economic situation” is not defined, just like there is nobody and no criteria entrusted to name and identify them. These are significant details that cannot be ascertained in the document. Revising the rent means increasing or decreasing it. Given that both the changing economic situation and a reason for deciding to revise the rent are shrouded in ambiguity, the Mayor’s Office can easily decrease rent levels at its whim. If the Mayor’s Office and the company fail to reach a consensus on the rent, the Mayor’s Office reserves the right to re-define it unilaterally and notify the company about the decision. If the company rejects it, it will have to leave the location awarded to it at the auction. In other words, Tbilisi Government, specifically, the Mayor’s Office has the legal rights to amend auction terms and conditions if it desires so. It must be noted that last week the issue received attention of businessman Bidzina Ivanishvili. He met with press publishers and distributors. He expressed his desire to support press distribution. The meeting participants reviewed several original ways of stimulating it in Tbilisi, other cities and also in the countryside. The Press Association of Georgia already started to work on these projects.

The Coalition For Freedom of Election distributed a statement on the removal of press booths. Here we quote it: “We call on all those people who plan to participate in the auctions of so called ‘1000 booths’ organized by the Mayor’s Office:  Show your civil and public positions and do not take part in the auctions for those locations where press booths are or used to stand before 25 November. There are a total of 150 such locations in Tbilisi. Your sensible position would allow those, who have been distributing press for years, take part in the auctions and retain their locations. In this way, you would support free press. Additionally, we ask press representatives to publish information in their periodicals about those auctioned places which coincide with the locations of press booths. We understand that certain Governmental businessmen may still take part in the auctions of the above said places as either physical or legal persons. In such cases, we reserve the right to ask the public to resort to various types of protest actions against those companies (and their products) which connive with the Authorities in stifling freedom of speech. Support for free press means protection of our right to receive any information without obstruction! We are the public! We are protecting our rights!”

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