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In 2016 during the election campaign period, the former Prime Minister of Georgia, Bidzina Ivanishvili, stated that he would make botanical garden in the village of Ganmukhuri in the Zugdidi Municipality. Ganmukhuri is located adjacent to the so-called “administrative border line” of Russian-occupied Abkhazia. After Mr Ivanishvili’s talks about making the botanical garden, the state transferred an 83.5 hectare agricultural swamp land plot in Ganmukhuri to the Zugdidi Municipality’s ownership. In turn, the Zugdidi Municipality established the Non-Profit Legal Entity Ganmukhuri Botanical Garden and gave the aforementioned land plot to that entity under usufruct rights[1] at no cost. The market value of the land plot is assessed to be GEL 16,658.4.

In September 2016, the then Prime Minister of Georgia, Giorgi Kvirikashvili, who visited Ganmukhuri at that time, spoke not only about making the botanical garden but also about the construction of a five-star hotel which would be built by the Cartu Foundation and the Georgian Co-Investment Fund.

However, in July 2018, on air on the TV broadcast, Current Topics with Maka Tsintsadze, Mr Ivanishvili stated that he changed his mind on making the botanical garden in Ganmukhuri, because that could have altered the local climate.

FactCheck took interest in finding out about the amount of money that the Non-Profit Legal Entity Ganmukhuri Botanical Garden received and what was its final fate.

The Ganmukhuri Botanical Garden was registered on 26 August 2016 and the number of employees was determined to be nine although, in fact, only eight persons were employed there. In 2016, a GEL 20,000 subsidy was allocated from the Zugdidi budget for the aforementioned entity whilst the actual execution from the budget was GEL 18,800. In 2016, the Ganmukhuri Botanical Garden NPLE spent 74.1% of the allocated money for salaries and 23.7% for purchasing computer equipment. For instance, on 22 November 2016, the Ganmukhuri Botanical Garden hired a procurement specialist until the end of that year for a GEL 1,100 monthly salary. In the same period, the NPLE made five simplified (direct purchase) contracts with a total value of GEL 5,195. That is, the Ganmukhuri Botanical Garden paid a procurement specialist GEL 1,400 to purchase GEL 5,195 worth of computer hardware and office materials.

In 2017, the local budget allocated GEL 105,000 for the Ganmukhuri Botanical Garden whilst the budget execution was GEL 101,400. In 2017, it spent 92.9% of the budget allocated funds; that is, GEL 94,200 on salaries, 3.3% (GEL 3,300) on fuel and 2.1% (GEL 2,100) on business trips. Of note is that it also hired a procurement specialist for 12 months in 2017 whose annual salary amounted to GEL 13,200. It also concluded seven contracts on direct purchase (simplified method) with a total value of GEL 6,359 in 2017. The Ganmukhuri Botanical Garden spent twice as much on the salary of a procurement specialist in 2017 than on the total amount of purchases made in the same year.

Table 1: Ganmukhuri Botanical Garden NPLE[2] Expenses (GEL)

Component

2016

2017

2018 (planned amount until 20.08)

Until 01.09.2018

Labour Remuneration

13,930

94,200

153,000

145,620

Business Trips

0

2,150

3,050

2,620

Office Equipment

250

430

1,500

1,430

Phone Services

0

0

600

430

Representation Expenses

0

1,100

5,200

5,180

Fuel

0

3,330

5,450

4,250

Purchase of Computers

2,340

0

6,310

6,310

Camera

0

0

4,000

0

Purchase of Printer/Scanner

2,110

0

700

0

Other Materials

0

0

15,540

1,500

Other Expenses

170

190

4,650

1,380

Total

18,800

101,400

200,000

168,720

FactCheck took interest in the activities of the Ganmukhuri Botanical Garden in 2016-2017 and addressed the Zugdidi Municipality twice with letters requesting public information. However, the Ganmukhuri Botanical Garden did not have a report on its activities and, therefore, did not submit this document to the Zugdidi Municipal Council. The Director of the Ganmukhuri Botanical Garden, Zviad Karchava, whilst speaking on the Gardens’ expenses and activities in his interview with Commersant, stated that the Ganmukhuri Botanical Gardens carried out research studies and retrained personnel in the first year. However, expenses for these activities are not reflected in the funds which were allocated for it from the municipal budget.

After the merger of the City of Zugdidi and the Zugdidi Municipality, the Ganmukhuri Botanical Gardens NPLE was reformed and transformed into the Botanical Gardens Management Centre on 21 December 2017. On 14 March 2018, the Zugdidi Botanical Garden, which is being rehabilitated by the Municipal Development Fund, was given to the Botanical Gardens Management Centre under usufruct rights at no cost. In 2018, the Zugdidi municipal budget initially allocated GEL 200,000 for the Botanical Gardens Management Centre and then allocated an additional GEL 50,000 on 20 August 2018 after budget amendments. After transferring the Zugdidi Botanical Garden to the Botanical Gardens Management Centre, the Centre’s personnel increased to 29 and the actual number of employed individuals was indeed 29 in 2018. However, on 30 September 2018, job contracts of 19 employees expired and the Centre did not sign new contracts with them. At the present moment, ten individuals are employed at the Botanical Gardens Management Centre. As clarified by the Centre’s Director, employees carried out plant passportisation and archaeological excavation work in 2018. The Botanical Gardens Management Centre spent GEL 168,700 by 1 September 2018. Of this amount, GEL 145,600 (86.3%) was spent on salaries and the remaining GEL 23,100 belongs to other administrative expenses.

To conclude, a non-profit legal entity was created in 2016-2017 in anticipation of Bidzina Ivanishvili’s promise and only owned a piece of swamp land consisting of 83.5 hectares but simultaneously receiving budget funding amounting to GEL 120,200 in 2016-2017. Of this amount, GEL 108,100 (91%) was spent on labour remuneration for eight employees whilst the remaining GEL 12,100 was spent on purchasing computer hardware, office equipment and fuel as well as for representation expenses/business trips.

On 16 August 2018, the State Security Service of Georgia launched an investigation to study the activities of the Botanical Gardens Management Centre. The State Security Service has already questioned the Centre’s Director and the former Mayor of Zugdidi.

[1] Usufruct is a legal right accorded to a person and confers the temporary right to use someone else's property in the capacity of an owner. However, in contrast with the actual owner, the person or the party who benefits from usufruct has no right to damage or destroy it, use it as mortgage collateral, rent, dispose or bequeath it. For these activities, the agreement of the actual owner has to be obtained.

[2] Since 2018 it is the Non-Profit Legal Entity Botanical Gardens Management Centre.


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