On 23 January 2014, the Georgian Parliament discussed the amendments to the Law on Local Self-Government. One of the Members of the Parliamentary Majority, Zakaria Kutsnashvili, stated: “We have 63 municipalities and only four of them are equipped with council conference halls.” According to Kutsnashvili, in all other cases the offices of the chairmen are used for council meetings. Therefore, assigning a certain sum from the budget envisaged for self-government reform for the setting up of conference halls and improving infrastructure would be a good idea. Without proper facilities such as those provided by conference halls, citizen involvement and participation in council meetings will be impossible.
The First Deputy Minister of Regional Development and Infrastructure of Georgia, Tengiz Shergelashvili, commented upon Zakaria Kutsnashvili’s statement. He said that perhaps some council chairmen might find it more convenient to hold council meetings in their offices but, as a rule, the Soviet Regional Committee buildings currently still remain in the so-called regional centres; their absolute majority are equipped with the conference halls. Some of these halls might be in poor condition and some of them are still operational but they do exist in the majority of the abovementioned buildings.FactCheck
took interest in the condition of Georgian municipality council conference halls and decided to research the issue. The information was verified via telephone conversation directly with the municipalities.
Before amending the Law of Georgia on Local Self-Government, there were 60 regional municipalities and five self-governing cities throughout Georgia distributed within the regions in the following manner:
According to the Law of Georgia on Local Self-Government, starting from 2006 the status of a self-governing city has been granted to the following cities: Batumi, Tbilisi, Rustavi, Poti and Kutaisi. After the amendment of the abovementioned law is adopted in 2014, the status of a self-governing city will be granted to six more cities: Telavi, Ozurgeti, Zugdidi, Gori, Mtskheta and Akhaltsikhe.
As for municipality council conference halls, after verifying the information, we established that:
- 43 municipality councils do have halls to organise council meetings.
- In Ambrolauri, Chkhorotsku, Akhaltsikhe and Khulo, councils and local administration are sharing offices and conference halls with council meetings held in these halls.
- The Akhalgori Municipality, temporarily located in the refugees’ settlement in Tserovani, does have a conference hall; it is, however, in poor condition but is still used for council meetings.
- In Aspindza, Sighnaghi and Kharagauli there are conference halls; they are, however, in poor condition and so council meetings are held at the chairmen’s offices.
In order to verify the information about the conference halls, we directly contacted the municipalities of Georgia. As a result of our research, we found out the following: 43 municipalities do have their own conference halls; in four municipalities, the councils and the local administrations are sharing the conference halls; the hall of the Akhalgori Municipality is not equipped appropriately, however, meetings are still held there; four municipalities do not have any conference halls and the council meetings are held at the offices of the council chairmen. Although we were not able to reach out to 13 municipalities, the situation described above still provides a reliable ground for drawing conclusions.Based upon the information obtained from the municipalities, FactCheck concludes that the statement of MP, Zakaria Kutsnashvili: “We have 63 municipalities and only four of them are equipped with council conference halls,” is FALSE.