TBILISI, DFWatch–According to Transparency International Georgia (TI), municipalities in the Samegrelo-Zemo Svaneti region issued bonuses to civil servants worth more than half a million lari without speficying the reason.

The organization’s third report about public bonuses covers the period from 1 April to 1 July 2013, and reveals that despite several complaints from non-governmental organizations (NGOs), the bonus situation has not changed.

From 1 April to 1 July 2013, 610 409 lari (about 360 000 USD) was issued in bonuses. In total, 1,385,737 lari ( about 834 000 USD) worth of bonuses was issued over a 6 month period, money that went to civil servants employed by the municipalities in Samegrelo-Zemo Svaneti, a region in the west of Georgia.

The municipalities did not specify on what the basis the bonuses were awarded.

TI has inquired with the local governments in writing, asking them whether they have established a procedure for issuing bonuses. Only five municipalities responded — Zugdidi, Senaki, Chkhorotsku, Khobi and Poti — and none of them affirmatively.

“Representatives of local government authorities often state that the issuing of bonuses is triggered by low salaries, and by the attraction of qualified staff to the civil service. We believe that these circumstances should not serve as grounds for issuing bonuses unjustifiably,” the survey says.

Representatives of the Samegrelo municipality have already noted that the bonus system is not well enough regulated yet, but acting Deputy Gamgebeli of Zugdidi, Merab Kvaraia, said they are ready to consider the recommendations made by NGOs and make regulations for how to qualify for bonuses in the near future

NGOs in 2012 expressed concern about unexplained bonuses allocated to members of parliament. The base salary of an MP is 2 000 lari. Last year, MPs received a monthly salary supplement and bonus that amounted to about 2 000-4 000 lari. In the period from October to January, after the new parliament was elected, the bonus system was unchanged.

Speaker of Parliament David Usupashvili explained that the government had to use the already approved budget and bonus system, but from 2013 the system would be changed.

“We changed this malformed system. After January 2013, no bonuses are provided for MPs. There will be a fund for quarterly bonuses that will be given only for merit,” Usupashvili said in 2012.

According to Institute for Development of Freedom of Information (IDFI), after February 2013, MPs in fact don’t receive bonuses, but the amount of their salary supplements has been increased at the expense of phasing out the bonuses. The speaker of the previous parliament assembly receive 2 450 lari, but now gets 3 905 lari as salary additive.

According to IDFI, instead of 30 percent, MPs salaries had decreased only 5 percent.