Verdict: FactCheck concludes that Aleksandre Motserelia’s statement is a LIE.
Resume: A state trustee or governor is a central governmental representative in territorial-administrative units mostly responsible for fulfilling the central government’s tasks. Probing into the activities of a municipality is not part of a state trustee’s power and, therefore, he is not authorised to do so. In regard to dismissing a municipal council, this belongs to the presidential authority upon the request of the Government of Georgia and with the consent of the Parliament of Georgia.
Therefore, Aleksandre Motserelia’s statement is groundless and can be assessed as an attempt to interfere in a municipality’s independent activity (which is guaranteed by the law).
Aleksandre Motserelia, the newly appointed state trustee – governor of the Samegrelo-Zemo Svaneti region, spoke with media representatives about the activities of municipalities. Mr Motserelia stated that a special commission will be established to probe into the activities of municipalities.
In particular, Aleksandre Motserelia stated: “We are in power to probe into the activities of each municipality. When a commission enters a municipality and studies any transgressions, depending on the picture we have, the governor is in power to suspend the authority of a municipality if it contradicts state interests. However, this requires proof. Nepotism, tenders, suspicious misappropriation of budget resources – all of these contradict state interests although they need to be proven.”
The Law of Georgia on the Structure, Authority and Rules of Operation of the Government of Georgia determines the status of a state trustee – governor. In accordance with this law, the state trustee – governor is a representative of the central government in territorial-administrative units and he is appointed and dismissed by the Government of Georgia. Therefore, the state trustee is a representative of a state organ. In turn, relations between state and municipal organs are based on the principle of cooperation (Article 7). In addition, there are two types of state oversight (Chapter XVI) which cover the activities of municipalities:
Legal Oversight – is carried out to ensure the harmonisation of municipal council decisions with national legislation and is spearheaded by the Prime Minister. This type of oversight envisions the determination of whether or not municipal council resolutions are in harmony with national legislation. In the case when a municipal council’s resolution contradicts national legislation and the municipal council did not harmonise it with national legislation, the Prime Minister is not authorised to revoke that resolution even if it is unlawful. In such a case, the Prime Minister appeals to the court (Article 132).
Sector Oversight – is carried out with a municipality’s delegated authority to ensure that the municipality’s activity is legal and appropriate. Sector oversight is carried out by that ministry/agency whose authority is delegated to the municipality (Article 130.2). One such authority is the registration of citizens for conscription which is carried out by municipalities whilst the Ministry of Regional Development and Infrastructure carries out the oversight (Article 51). The Ministry of Regional Development and Infrastructure exerts oversight through the state trustee – governor (Article 5 “I”).
Therefore, the trustee is authorised to probe into a municipality’s activity in regard to registration for conscription alone. In turn, only the State Audit Service, independent audit (upon the decision of a municipal council) and an internal audit of a city hall (Article 140) have the power to probe into the activities of a municipality (legality and efficiency of using municipal funds and property). Apart from these organs/individuals, no one is authorised to probe into the activities of municipal organs.
Only the President of Georgia, upon the request of the Government of Georgia and with the consent of the Parliament of Georgia, is in power to dismiss a municipal council or suspend its authority (Article 141). Dismissing a municipal council or suspending its authority is allowed if the activities of the municipal council threaten the country’s sovereignty, territorial integrity or the exercising of the constitutional authority of state government organs (Article 73 “J”). In order to start proceedings for the dismissing of a municipal council or suspending its authority, the municipal council’s activities should have been engaged in one of the aforementioned circumstances. In this case, a state trustee – governor is entitled to submit a proposal to the Government of Georgia to either dismiss a municipal council or suspend its authority (Article 5 “H”). Therefore, the state trustee’s authority is confined to submitting a proposal instead of being in power to actually dismiss a city council or suspend its authority.
In regard to the issues mentioned by Aleksandre Motserelia (nepotism, tenders, suspicious misappropriation of budget funds), all of these are unlawful actions with respective agencies, and not the state trustee – governor, responding to them. However, even if proven, this type of fact cannot serve as grounds for dismissing a municipal council or suspending its authority because this does not equal infringement of state sovereignty and territorial integrity nor does it obstruct any state organ from exercising its constitutional authority. Separate high-ranking officials are to be held accountable for corruption or embezzlement of budget funds instead of municipal organs.