Tornike Rizhvadze: “[Regarding the Batumi without Damaged Buildings programme], construction has commenced at ten locations, progressing at a notably good pace.”

Verdict: Tornike Rizhvadze’s statement is FALSE.

The targeted Batumi without Damaged Buildings state programme was announced by the Georgian government in March 2022. The Batumi budget allocated GEL 18 million for the programme, aimed at dismantling, reconstructing, strengthening and rehabilitating damaged buildings in Batumi. Contracts for two simultaneous projects at 1, 33 and 11 Giorgi Kvinitadze Street at 9 Grishashvili Street were signed as of May 2022 with an initial deadline set for 31 March 2023. However, these deadlines were extended on multiple occasions and the current expected handover date is 28 March 2024, indicating a one-year delay of the completion of both projects.

LLC Anagi is responsible for construction projects at multiple locations with one of the contracts signed in February 2023 and another registered in June of the same year. Whilst GEL 18,285,317 was paid to the company in advance, no documents or acts of receipt were provided regarding the completed work, implying a lack of payment documents for finished construction.

Upon our investigation of six locations, it became evident that the construction process is not proceeding at a “notably good pace.” Thus, Tornike Rizhvadze’s statement is FALSE.

Analysis:

The chairman of the Government of Autonomous Republic of Ajara presented 2023’s performance during his visit to the Public Broadcaster Ajara TV show and stated: “[Regarding the Batumi without Damaged Buildings programme], construction has commenced at ten locations, progressing at a notably good pace.”

The deadline was extended on multiple occasions thereafter. Particularly, according to the changes in the Kvinitadze Street construction contract in September 2023, the updated timeline plan extends to 28 March 2024. The 5 December changes state that following negotiations with the Batumi Municipality Council for investigating the households affected by natural disasters, changes have been made in the internal planning of the said architectural project resulting in altered room partitions and a further need to change the work to be carried out in internal spaces (such as the internal electrical wiring network, the internal sewage network, the internal water supply network, etc.). Therefore, the volume of work regarding walls and dividers was significantly expanded as per the document. GEL 4,948,506 out of GEL 7,536,260 has been paid throughout the Kvinitadze Street project, constituting 66% of its total cost as of 30 January 2024.

Moreover, contract completion dates for the construction of a house on Grishashvili Street were extended on multiple occasions as well with changes made during the same period for identical reasons. The final deadline for this project is also 28 March of the current year. The supplier has been paid GEL 4,400,459, constituting 64% of the entire value (GEL 6,920,100).

LLC Erti is responsible for both of the aforementioned projects. The director and co-owner of the company is Beka Gurgenidze. According to the extract from Public Registry in July 2022, he is also the director of LLC Company Erti. Additionally, 25% of the company’s shares are owned by Mindia Gurgenidze who has made a donation of GEL 30,000 to the Georgian Dream political party.

One of the construction projects at 3a Mayakovsky Street was set to commence with LLC Anagi emerging as the sole participating company in the tender and subsequently signing the contract on 28 June 2023. The government earmarked GEL 15,040,858 for the demolition of the existing structure and the construction of a new building. Whilst the scheduled completion date is 28 October 2024, our investigation in September of the previous year revealed that construction had not yet started. Although several documents, specifically an advance payment agreement registered on 15 November 2023, a payment certificate stating an advance payment of GEL 4,512,500 to LLC Anagi and bank guarantees are available on the Public Registry website, no documents pertaining to the project completion have been uploaded as of now.

LLC Anagi was the only participant in another tender in the state programme, securing a contract valued at GEL 78,267,485 registered on 16 February 2023 with a 48-month work timeline. The scope of this project included the construction of two houses, the demolition and construction of damaged houses in the so-called Shanghai settlement, the construction of a residential building at 13 26 May Street and the demolition and construction of new residential buildings at 30 Kakhaberi Street and 94-96 S. Khimshiashvili Street (funded through the 2022-2026 budget).

The work at 30 Kakhaberi Street was omitted due to a failure to negotiate terms with residents as of the changes to the contract in December 2023, resulting in a reduction of the total cost by GEL 15,926,420.00, ultimately amounting to GEL 61,720,876.33. Other agreements mostly refer to advance payments. The ninth and final alteration in the contract was made on 18 January 2024 referring to the hindrances emerging during construction. It is noteworthy that the emergence of obstacles is a common occurrence amongst almost all projects and often serves as an underlying factor for deadline extensions. Three sets of payrolls are available regarding the aforementioned tender on the State Procurement Agency website according to which the value of the completed work is GEL 0 and the entire amount paid to the company (GEL 13,773,067) represents advance payments. Below, you can find the current state of the construction area in the so-called Shanghai settlement one year after the contract was signed.

Construction area in the so-called Shanghai settlement

Irakli Gogolishvili, the director of LLC Anagi, made a donation of GEL 60,000 to the Georgian Dream political party just before the New Year on 29 December 2023. The owner of the company, Nana Aroshidze, has donated GEL 60,000 to the then political power Georgia Won’t Be Sold in 2012. This organisation was affiliated with the previous government and was found to have illegally donated to the then ruling party, the United National Movement, prior to the 2012 elections as evaluated by Transparency International Georgia.

Thus, two construction projects under the Batumi without Damaged Buildings state programme have been delayed by a year and it is still challenging to affirm that the work will be completed as per the updated schedule. Regarding the two other tenders, advance transfers to LLC Anagi amount to GEL 18,285,317 whilst the payment for completed work stands at GEL 0. Considering all of the above, the statement that construction is progressing at a “notably good pace” does not reflect the official information available on the State Procurement Agency website. Thus, FactCheck concludes that Tornike Rizhvadze’s statement is FALSE.


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