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Sixteen Georgian MPs ‘haven’t disclosed their business connections’

21 September 2017
Georgian Parliament (wikimedia.org)

Fifty-one members of Georgia’s Parliament are engaged in private business, while sixteen have not officially declared their ties with them, a new report from the anti-corruption organisation Transparency International — Georgia (TI) claims.

Fifty-one out of 150 Georgian MPs own a share in private enterprises, TI wrote in a 19 September report ‘Ties of MPs with business, incompatible activities, and undeclared assets’.

The majority of them — forty — are members of the ruling Georgian Dream (GD) party. All six parliamentarians from the conservative Alliance of Patriots are reportedly engaged in business. The list also includes four MPs from European Georgia and one from their former ally, the United National Movement.

According to the report, several MPs have connections to more than one company. For example, GD’s Ivliane Tsulaia, majoritarian MP, has business assets in 31 companies. GD’s Nino Tsilosani and Kakhaber Okriashvili are reportedly connected to 13 companies each.

All government officials in Georgia are obliged to declare their and their families’ assets, including shares in private companies. TI has claimed that of the 51 MPs with business ties, sixteen have not declared direct business assets: 14 from GD and two from the opposition Alliance of Patriots.

MPs are also restricted from heading private companies. The report claimed nine parliamentarians are registered as company directors.

Since November 2016, companies reportedly associated with three ruling party members have won state tenders. Companies Pharma LTD and Dazghveva LTD, which TI claims are associated with Kakhaber Okriashvili, won a tender worth of ₾16,584,494 ($6,700,000). TI also wrote that Ibolia LTD, which is allegedly associated with Ioseb Makrakhidze, won a tender worth of ₾2,250,440 ($910,000). In their declarations, they both wrote that they were ‘partners’ of the companies.

Irakli Kobakhidze, the Chair of the Parliament, called TI’s report ‘irresponsible’ and said the group was trying to ‘discredit members of Parliament’.

Vano Zardiashvili, another parliamentarian from the ruling party, accused the organisation of spreading ‘deliberate lies’.

Eka Gigauri, TI’s General Director, responded to the accusations with claims that the statements against the reports were aimed at discrediting the organisation.

‘In spite of the harsh and inappropriate statements made in regards to our work by the MPs, we still yet have to hear of any specific and clear error made in the report’, a 21 September statement from the organisation read.

Gigauri said that at least two MPs have already addressed the Public Registry to register their resignations from executive positions in private companies. ‘Several MPs have already addressed relevant offices and have corrected asset declarations. This was the goal of our research’, Gigauri stated.

After the 2016 parliamentary elections and the split of the biggest opposition party United National Movement in January 2017, Georgian Dream has enjoyed a constitutional majority in the Parliament with 115 MPs out of 150. The European Georgia party comes second with 21, while UNM and the Alliance of Patriots have six MPs each. The Industrialists, supported by the GD, have one parliamentarian, and the only one is independent.

The lowest salary of a member of Georgia’s Parliament is ₾3,790 ($1,530). This is the case if a parliamentarian does not occupy any additional seats, such as a chair or deputy chair of a faction.

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