All nine of Georgia’s regional governors claimed state funding for fuel far higher than they could possibly have used, a new report by the Institute for Development of Freedom of Information (IDFI) has revealed.
Each governor would have made an average of two trips around the earth with the fuel they claimed money for in 2017–2018, according to the Tbilisi-based transparency group.
The governors of Samegrelo–Zemo Svaneti and Samtskhe–Javakheti regions claimed expenses for almost enough fuel for three trips around the world, the IDFI report published on 4 June with the help of international group Luminate said.
IDFI found that in 2017–2018, governors drove their cars an average of 215 kilometres per working day.
According to their analysis, while the monthly fuel limits for none of nine governor’s administration exceeded 1,500 litres per month, seven of them allegedly used over 130,000 litres of fuel in 2017–2018 enough to drive a total of 750,000 kilometres overall, averaging 52,500 kilometres each in 2017 and 54,700 in 2018.
According to their analysis, last year, governors spent a total of ₾530,000 ($190,000) of taxpayer money on fuel, ₾52,000 ($19,000) more than the previous year.
The governors of Samegrelo–Zemo Svaneti, Kakheti, and Imereti regions were the highest spenders.
IDFI noted that almost half of the vehicles owned by regional administrations were high-performance cars, with the average fuel consumption ranging from 15 to almost 20 litres per 100 kilometres.
IDFI said that governors enjoying Toyota Land Cruisers and other luxury cars, as well as their high fuel expenses, indicated a need for more ‘centralised’, and ‘stricter’ oversight mechanisms, including vehicle tracking and monitoring.
They also found that regional municipalities acquired and transferred these luxury cars to regional governors’ administrations free of charge, contradicting Georgia’s self-government and decentralisation process.
No vision for decentralisation
A day before the publication of the report, IDFI and 22 other Georgia-based groups, including the Open Society Georgia Foundation and the Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association, criticised the government for their lack of coherent vision for decentralisation and local self-governance.
The groups said that the government’s strategy, discussed at a forum in May, did not address fiscal or property decentralisation in Georgia.
According to the groups, without transferring state assets to the municipalities and fully defining their roles, local self-government bodies would remain dependent on Tbilisi.
In a May 2018 poll commissioned by Transparency International — Georgia, only 32% of people said they trusted local government bodies, 29% said they did not, while 31% gave ambivalent answers.
In an April 2018 public opinion survey by the International Republican Institute (IRI), 58% of those polled said they did not believe they could influence decisions made in their municipalities, and 60% said local authorities in Georgia were not open or transparent.