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Recommendations for municipal government reform

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Friday, November 22
The coalition “For the development of local/regional government and civil society actors”, whose members include the Georgian Institute of Public Affairs, the Young Economists of Georgia Association, the Center For Strategic Research And Development of Georgia, the Tbilisi Liberal Academy Foundation and the Caucasian Institute for Economic and Social Research, presented their recommendations concerning municipal government reform on November 20th.

The organization representatives emphasized that launching local government reforms was a positive step. They stressed that unlike the previous government, the current government is open to recommendations.

The Georgian government approved the self-government code on October 30th. After the Ministry of Regional Development and Infrastructure concludes meetings and discussions with the public over the code, the draft law will be discussed in parliament and presumably will be adopted.

According to the Ministry of Infrastructure, the main aim of the reform is decentralization. The ministry claims that due to the reform, the number of self-governing cities will increase. Five Georgian cities currently have self-governing status. An additional 13 municipalities will be given self-governing status as part of the reform. Representatives for self-governing bodies will be elected. Local governments will also become more financially independent.

The code also stipulates the creation of public councils in villages, which will be serve to identify actual needs in these communities and ways to fulfill those needs.

“The reform will result in the socio-economic development of cities and villages; local authorities will have closer contact with the population which will increase the level of involvement of citizens in the process of solving issues of local importance; the quality of public services will improve and the solution of vital local interests will increase the public's responsibility.” the first Deputy Minister of Regional Development and Infrastructure of Georgia, Tengiz Shergelashvili said.

The major recommendations of the coalition were related to educational encouragement in public councils and municipalities, monitoring issues, accurate counting of the population in each municipality, the threat of corruption and officials' accountability.

“The Ministry of Infrastructure should specify a methodology for monitoring self-government bodies. It is important that an effective audit be undertaken to obtain information on the situation in the municipalities and to determine how effective municipal government bodies are. There is the risk of corruption and it is unclear as well why municipalities interfere in councils’ financial issues." representative of the Young Economists of Georgia Association, Giorgi Tsimintia said, noting that officials should be accountable to the public.

Temur Tordinava, head of the Caucasian Institute for Economic and Social Research, told The Messenger that many of their recommendations have been included in the draft law. “We are ensuring that the municipal government reform code is the best it can be." Tordinava said.