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TI Georgia issues a study

By Mzia Kupunia
Friday, December 19
Transparency International Georgia has produced a study which examines access to information and the accountability of the spending of the international aid to Georgia in the aftermath of the Brussels donor conference on October 22, 2008, at which donors pledged USD 4.5 billion in aid.

The study concludes that the current lack of easily accessible and up-to-date information on aid in the public realm directly reduces the transparency and accountability of aid, and limits the scope for democratic involvement in this issue. “While TI Georgia to date has neither looked for, nor found, any instances of corruption linked to international aid to Georgia in the aftermath of the Brussels donor conference, the current information deficit and resulting lack of transparency heightens the risk that aid will be misallocated, wasted or stolen in the coming years. In order for international aid to contribute to the development of a stable, democratic and prosperous Georgia, both donors and key players in Georgia must work together to actively increase public access to comprehensive (and comprehensible) information on aid,” the study suggests.

According to the TI research, coupled with the lack of a publicly accessible central source of information on aid to Georgia, the limited public outreach performance of donors makes it virtually impossible for Georgian stakeholders to gain an overview of who funds what, when, where and how. According to the authors of the research TI Georgia itself, after two months of full time research by a dedicated staff member, “still has only an incomplete picture of donor activities.” TI suggests that the lack of accessible information on aid has a direct negative impact on democracy in Georgia, and undermines democratic accountability mechanisms in the country.

TI Georgia gives some advice to donors, as well as the Georgian authorities. Where aid is concerned, transparency, good public relations and positive outcomes often go hand in hand, the study says. Donors should take steps to provide easily accessible and comprehensible information on their activities to the Georgian public. A simple first step would be to clearly identify one person responsible for responding to public enquiries, and specify what information (if any) is considered confidential and cannot be shared with the public, the study suggests.

The research states that while the Ministry of Finance appears to be very successful at tracking aid, it does not actively engage in public outreach on aid issues. Making information accessible to Georgian citizens in a comprehensible format is not an optional extra, but a core function of a Governmental body in a democratic society. The opposition, both inside and outside Parliament, should take a more active interest in aid issues. Actively engaging with major donors to learn about and discuss their aid plans should be the first step towards active participation in aid issues.