Buba Kudava has been the director of the Georgian National Manuscript Centre since 2006. From the end of April 2015, however, this position has been vacant.
Buba Kudava’s dismissal from his position was followed by several days of long protests staged by employees of the Georgian National Manuscript Centre who demanded Kudava’s return to his former position. The Centre’s Scientific Council and employees issued the following address: "We believe that the Ministry of Education and Science of Georgia’s uncompromising and inappropriate approach contradicts the principles of the freedom and the independence of the Georgian National Manuscript Centre which is the guardian of the country’s most important cultural heritage."The Minister of Education and Science of Georgia, Tamar Sanikidze, discussed this issue thoroughly as a guest of the talk show, 20/30,
on air on GDS TV. Ms Sanikidze pointed out incidences of malpractice at the Georgian National Manuscript Centre which were detected by the State Audit Office of Georgia. The Minister also clarified that Buba Kudava, as the Centre’s director, was not dismissed and that her Ministry cooperated with him for the last two years. Subsequently, his term expired and he was appointed as an interim director. Further subsequently, the law required the holding of a competition to select a new director and a new competition was announced.
Minister Sanikidze stated that besides official state funding, the Georgian National Manuscript Centre receives funding from the Shota Rustaveli National Science Foundation. The Centre takes part in competitions and wins grants which is, of course, a positive development. However, the money which is received from these grants is unevenly distributed among employees of the Centre. For example, the salaries for scientist-employees, who have been working at the Centre for a number of years, were in the margins of GEL 200-300. Against this background, other privileged employees had additional salary bonuses together with the income obtained from the grants. Ms Sanikidze also underlined that the report of the State Audit Office of Georgia included instances of serious malpractice for possible investigation by the Prosecutor’s Office.
The Journalist asked the Minister of Education and Science of Georgia for her position regarding the taking of the Vani Gospels to the exhibition organised at the British Manuscript Academy in 2008. Tamar Sanikidze stated that there are indeed some questions concerning this particular issue and that both specialists and relevant official organs are of the opinion that this case should be under investigation.
On 7 May 2015, the Ministry of Education and Science of Georgia announced a new competition for the position of the director of the Georgian National Manuscript Centre. According to the selection criteria, the candidate should have a doctoral academic degree and experience in working in managerial positions for at least five years (with experience in the field of science for at least two years) as well as experience in project planning and project management. The minimum required age for applicants was set at 21 years.
On 16 May 2015, the Ministry of Education and Science of Georgia held the competition to select the new director. The former director, Buba Kudava, also participated in the competition. As of 17 May 2015, a statement was made in which Zaza Abashidze was named as the new director of the Georgian National Manuscript Centre. On 20 May 2015, his appointment was formalised by the Prime Minister of Georgia.
On 20 May 2015, the Prime Minister held a meeting with the Centre’s new director, Zaza Abashidze, and the Minister of Education and Science of Georgia, Tamar Sanikidze. After the meeting, the Prime Minister’s Press Service issued the following statement: "A new era dawns in the history of the Georgian National Manuscript Centre. As decreed by the Prime Minister, the Centre will be reorganised, a study will be done on the situation with regard to foundations, a new office will be built and employee salaries will increase." As stated by the Prime Minister himself, the state’s interest toward the Georgian National Manuscript Centre was very low for many years with the previous governments not giving it proper attention. Irakli Gharibashvili also added that certain changes were planned in the rules governing the Centre’s director.
On 21 May 2015, Tamar Sanikidze appealed to the Chamber of Control of Georgia with the request to look into Buba Kudava’s activities as the director of the Georgian National Manuscript Centre. On 25 May 2015, the Minister stated that the report of the State Audit Office of Georgia concerning the activities of the Georgian National Manuscript Centre was sent to the Prosecutor’s Office.FactCheck
interviewed Buba Kudava and discussed his complaints against the Ministry of Education and Science of Georgia in detail.
Buba Kudava asserted that the discord between the Ministry of Education and Science of Georgia and the Georgian National Manuscript Centre started after the Centre expressed its firm stance upon two major issues. The first was the controversy over its possible relocation and the second was about the Lailash Bible. As stated by Mr Kudava, at the end of 2014 the Centre received an offer to move to a location behind the Holy Trinity Cathedral. The offer was rejected upon the grounds of limited space and close proximity to the Cathedral. Mr Kudava stated: "You are aware that the Holy Trinity Cathedral is an architecturally dominant building and no matter what type of building you construct, it will nevertheless be overshadowed by the Cathedral. Moreover, a visitor will perceive it as a part of the larger complex of the Holy Trinity Cathedral."
As concerns the Lailash Bible, Buba Kudava clarified that this is a Hebrew manuscript and the Georgian Hebrew Historical Museum has requested having it under its own possession. This, according to Mr Kudava, fundamentally contradicts the principles of the foundation, establishment and development of the Georgian National Manuscript Centre. Therefore, the Centre opposed handing the Lailash Bible over to the Georgian Hebrew Historical Museum. Moreover, there is no official documentation which proves that the Georgian National Manuscript Centre even received the Bible from the Georgian Hebrew Historical Museum in the first place. Additionally, when the Museum was closed, the Centre had not even been established. Further additionally, before the Bible ended up in any establishment, it was kept in the village of Lailash in the Lechkhumi district. Mr Kudava remarked: "So, let us restore justice and return the Bible to the Lailash Synagogue."
Buba Kudava also discussed the salary issue concerning the Centre’s employees. He noted that at the beginning of 2015, the Minister of Education and Science of Georgia stated that the salary for scientists would increase by 200%-250% and reach GEL 600-700. However, this initiative did not include employees of the Centre. Additionally, Mr Kudava underlined that at the beginning of his tenure as director, the Centre’s budget was GEL 180,000 whilst the present day budget amounts to GEL 875,000. The budget covers the preservation, restoration and digitalisation of manuscripts together with research, publication, educational projects, reader service, salaries, etc. He also clarified that at the present moment the net salaries of Centre employees vary between GEL 250 and GEL 490 and funds obtained from grants are mostly distributed among the scientists. Of note, too, is that the Centre has a category of employees who are unable to participate in grant competitions (lawyers, PR staff, Chancellery Head, etc.) and so these particular employees were given temporary salary bonuses.
Buba Kudava shares the Prime Minister’s opinion that the Georgian National Manuscript Centre has indeed lacked attention for many years. However, he asserts that the same situation continued in 2013-2015. In spite of the Ministry of Education and Science’s decision to fund several projects, the overall picture did not change. Mr Kudava also welcomed the initiative to raise the salaries of the scientists whilst posing the following question: "If it is possible now, why was it not possible before?"
Buba Kudava also discussed the aforementioned exhibition which was organised at the British Manuscript Academy in London in 2008. According to him, the Georgian National Manuscript Centre received an offer to participate in an exhibition dedicated to the epoch of the culture of Byzantium. Two Georgian manuscripts, the Tskarostavi and Vani Gospels, were selected to be sent for the exhibition. This is one of the most effective means for popularising a country’s culture and every state museum takes part in such activities. Mr Kudava clarified that after specialists had studied the manuscripts, it was decided that they were able to be safely transported and exhibited in London. However, a restorer, who has since been dismissed from the Georgian National Manuscript Centre, transmitted the wrong information to the Patriarchate of the Georgian Orthodox Church which resulted in confrontation and controversy and halted the process. Mr Kudava stated: "Let them investigate this case. But what should they investigate? Investigate why we did not send these manuscripts for the exhibition? Why did they not take interest in this case before? Was there a lack of information?"
In regard to the instances of malpractice included in the report of the State Audit Office, Buba Kudava confirms that there indeed were some cases of malpractice. However, he believes that none of the ministries is immune from having these types of misdeeds. Mr Kudava claims that in some instances the representatives of the State Audit Office displayed absolute ignorance, especially with regard to restoration, because the State Audit Office’s group did not include a single restorer. He also commented that no one from the investigative organs has hitherto contacted him and indicated that he would be most grateful if someone would notify him about the current status of his file.In order to verify whether or not the Prosecutor’s Office started an investigation regarding the case of the Georgian National Manuscript Centre, FactCheck
addressed the Prosecutor’s Office with an official letter. The reply we received stated that the Prosecutor’s Office received a report on the audit of the LEPL Georgian National Manuscript Centre together with respective attachments from the Internal Audit Department of the Ministry of Education and Science of Georgia on 27 May 2015.The letter also clarifies that according to the General Administrative Code of Georgia, the Code does not cover the activities of those organs of the executive level of government which might envisage criminal prosecution or the launching of a criminal investigation against an individual who has committed a crime. Therefore, FactCheck
did not receive a reply on the measures undertaken by the Prosecutor’s Office regarding the aforementioned case.FactCheck
has also tried to interview the new director of the Georgian National Manuscript Centre with regard to the Centre’s future plans. However, as explained by the Centre’s Public Relations service, the Georgian National Manuscript Centre is currently busy with on-going competitions and any discussion about future plans will only be possible after the competitions are finished.
Of note is the fact that the rule governing the appointment of a director of a scientific-research establishment in Georgia is regulated by the Law of Georgia on Science and Technology and their Development. In 2005-2011, the Centre’s Scientific Council, as a part of a scientific-research establishment, was able to elect its director. After the legislative changes in 2011, the rule governing the election of directors was abolished and the head of an administrative organ for state control was authorised to appoint and dismiss directors upon consultation with the Prime Minister. The law did not specify the conditions, limits or duration of the terms for the directors. Therefore, acting directors were allowed to keep their positions before the decision on their dismissal was made and before their term expired.
Of additional mention are the amendments made by the Parliament of Georgia to the rule governing the appointment of directors of scientific-research establishments. According to these changes, a director of a research establishment is elected by the majority of its scientific council through the process of an open competition and appointed by the head of the administrative organ for state control. Therefore, if the head of the organ decides that the proposed candidacy is unacceptable, he will have the power to block the appointment.According to the law, Buba Kudava did not have a specific term of duration for his position. Additionally, he stated that the Prosecutor’s Office has not yet expressed any interest in him with regard to the case of the Georgian National Manuscript Centre. FactCheck was also not able to obtain information about the aforementioned case from the Prosecutor’s Office. The launch of a criminal investigation concerning this case has also not been reported through the media. Moreover, there are questions about the lack of interest on the part of respective investigative organs concerning the 2008 London exhibition and the fact that this topic became highlighted only after the dismissal of Mr Kudava from his position as the Centre’s director. Further, if the State Audit Office’s report included incidences of major malpractice, there is the question of why the case was not investigated and finalised. All of these questions remain hitherto unanswered.