Transparency and Integrity of Civil Servants: What Works in Georgia?

21. June 2017, Kyiv | Panel Discussion
Analysis26.06.2017
TI 21.06.17
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In spite of the fact that Georgia successfully managed the fight against corruption at the local level, high-ranking officials go still unpunished due to a lack of transparency. Why should public interest be above personal gains for civil servants, how to avoid conflict of interest, and which experience of Georgian reforms might be beneficial for Ukraine?

These were the questions of the panel discussion “How to Promote Integrity in Government Institutions” organised by Transparency International Ukraine with the support of Friedrich Naumann Foundation Ukraine and Belarus on June 21 in Kyiv.

Economic growth also depends on the development of state institutions, explained Miriam Kosmehl, head of Friedrich Naumann Foundation Ukraine and Belarus:“In order for the rule of law to prevail, strong, reliable and transparent public institutions are crucial, public institutions that do not work for the good of a selected few, but serve all the people of Ukraine.”

According to a recent research, «Benefits and Costs of DCFTA: Evaluation of the Impact on Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine», done jointly by the Vienna Institute for International Economic Studies and the German Bertelsmann Foundation, Kosmehl adds, “Georgia has made marked improvements in the quality of institutions”, while in Moldova and Ukraine issues with corruption and governance reforms persist, as the study’s authors argue.

It is equally important to recognise the success of reforms which took place after 2004 and not to turn a blind eye on the existing problems, states the project manager of Transparency International Georgia Erekle Urushadze.

“In Georgia, the ruling party obtains power, and inside the party itself, the power concentrates in the hands of three or four people. The result of this is a lack of strong institutions able to monitor the government performance”, said Urushadze.

Georgia improved rapidly its score ranking in the Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) from 124 place (2003) to 44 place (2016) because of the presence of multiple success factors. “During the Saakashvili regime, the system of taxation was redesigned in order to reduce and eliminate corruption in this sphere. Over a very short period of time, the country’s budget multiplied and increased significantly.” Bribes became an unprofitable activity for officials, both because of increased wages and criminal prosecution of corruption. They employed new staff in the redesigned law enforcement agencies.

“Successful reforms in Georgia failed in Ukraine, especially the reform of law enforcement agencies. To launch a patrol service is not enough to transform the whole system. The problem is that it is just an imitation of reforms with the help of re-certification, explained the executive director of Transparency International Ukraine Yaroslav Yurchyshyn. Some of the employees of the law enforcement agencies do not share high moral norms and standards of integrity. “The prosecutor’s office reforms failed:  84% of regional prosecutors in executive positions were reinstated.”  Moreover, law enforcement agencies do little to actually cooperate to check the e-declarations of officials.

The Georgians transformed authorities with duplicated functions, for instance prosecutors’ offices. Moreover, citizens can get social services online; there are such types of services as electronic declarations for civil servants and electronic registries of property. Since 2010, Georgia has launched the service of electronic tenders. The development and implementation of the Ukrainian public tender system “ProZorro” was supported by consultants who launched the similar Georgian system. Erekle Urushadze added, however, that Georgian law has some loopholes allowing the government to spend more than 1/3 of its funds escaping state control, signing direct contracts with companies.

The most problematic areas are property privatisation, financing of political parties, recruitment of new staff to the state service and connections of officials with business. “Transparency is not always accompanied by accountability, Erekle Urushadze said. “Georgia was able to fight corruption and bribery in social services. However, there are no effective instruments for grand corruption investigations.” Still 40% of Georgians believe that civil servants abuse power for personal gain, 41% are sure that the government is too weak to fight corruption.

Executive Director of TI Ukraine Yaroslav Yurchyshyn remarks that Ukraine started some show cases fighting against grand corruption: “The recent cases launched by NABU, the Nasirov case and the case of the ‘shadow owner’ of the People’s Front party Martynenko, suggest that there may be effective management and the possibility to fight corruption.” Nevertheless, the non-reformed police and prosecutor’s office are not consistently fighting corruption at the local level, states Yurchyshyn.

As for making appointments for important positions in public service, civic activists and international partners do take part in some competitions, but often lack decisive control.

“Media does not perform well at all. Contestable findings are highlighted only by the internet publication Ukrayinska Pravda (UP) and the new public law broadcasters Hromadske Radio and TV, while private national TV-channels still dominate, explains Larysa Denysenko, Hromadske Radio host, renowned author and lawyer. Why is no one paying attention to the fact that there were only 3-4 candidates for the crucial position of ‘state secretary’ [newly introduced; similar to the German model the head of the public service of the Cabinet of Ministers and the various line ministries respectively]? Is it a lot for a country where citizens want to influence political decisions and monitor activities of the state management?"

Nataliia Sokolenko, deputy editor of Hromadske Radio, moderator of the panel and member of the “Public Council of Integrity” (PCI - a civil society watchdog newly created to support the “High Qualification Commission” of Judges to ensure professional ethics and integrity in judicial appointments) explained: “The contest results for the new Supreme Court are important. Before the contest, the Code of Judicial Ethics was a ‘dead’ document and had no authority, and for this reason nobody took it into account. The Bangalore Principles of Judicial Conduct [endorsed by the Member States of the UN Commission on Human Rights at its 59th Session in Geneva] were new to the Ukrainian judges. It was the first time they encountered that judges could be penalised. As Public Integrity Council we cite these documents and point out shortcomings in judges’ work.”

“Ukraine has actively moved ahead into the top ratings regarding openness,” concludes Yaroslav Yurchyshyn. “In spite of this, there are problems with accountability due to a lack of public involvement in the monitoring and control of the state government bodies or regarding beneficial ownership registries, ProZorro. Without more direct involvement of the public, it will be difficult to achieve the high level of integrity Georgia already achieved.”

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