sulkhan saladze

Sulkhan Saladze is project coordinator at Georgian Young Lawyer’s Association.

Since some days after the 2013 presidential elections, much has been said about the millions spent from the President’s Reserve Fund.

Representatives of the ruling Georgian Dream Coalition allege that funds from the President’s Reserve Fund were spent for party political purposes, namely, for the benefit of the United National Movement. The president’s administration, however, has its counterargument, stating that activities funded by the President’s Reserve Fund were not envisaged in the 2013 state budget and nobody undertook an obligation to cover such expenses.

As for political statements, representatives of both political forces can be considered true. To be more precise, each might have their truth, yet I still consider that both of them try to mislead us.

Let’s start with the ruling coalition. The political power that took the helm after the 2012 parliamentary elections had a chance to alter the definition of the articles of the budgetary code, which concern the applicable rule of spending funds from the Reserve Fund (there was no rule in reality). This is the rule, within the framework of which for the past several years the former ruling party, already in opposition, successfully funded advertisements, billboards, image ads, business trips, translation of books, concerts, various festivals and what is the most important, so-called infrastructure projects carried out in election years, the majority of which are unknown to the population at large.

To put it more simply, the new government should have ensured the development of the problematic norm in terms of the president’s and the government’s reserve funds.

As for the position of the President’s Administration, the issue is much more complicated. For instance, this year, with one order only, the President allotted GEL 900,000 for the smooth operation of his administration; GEL 800,000 was allotted for functioning of the LEPL State Security Agency; more than GEL 90,000 was allotted for non-commercial legal entity “Youth Initiative for Future Georgia” that was established in February of this year; GEL 60,000 was spent for organization of a wine festival in Kartli; more than GEL 342,000 was spent on rehabilitation of churches and dioceses; 85,000 GEL was allocated for raising the qualification of civil servants (I am really interested in who those privileged individuals were); more than GEL 1,000,000 was allotted for funding students enrolled in master’s programs abroad (notwithstanding our attempts, eligibility criteria for selecting successful candidates remain secret).

These are only part of the costs incurred by the President’s Reserve Fund, however, if we examine the issued orders in details, many unpredictable expenses may be discovered. Generally, the majority of incurred costs have nothing in common with the Reserve Fund, while the rest of the expenses had already been incorporated in the 2013 state budget. In view of this, statements by both parties on the President’s Reserve Fund bear clear political signs.

And the last, I would like to say a few words about the inauguration of the new president. If we trust statements by the Ministry of Finance, the inauguration will be funded from the Government’s Reserve Fund, as the President’s Reserve Fund is completely empty.

We appreciate that the Government’s Reserve Fund is not totally spent; however, funding of an inauguration should not be a priority either for the President’s Reserve Fund or the Government’s Reserve Fund, as the presidential elections in 2013 was something that was known well in advance. Moreover, an inauguration is neither a flood nor any other natural disaster to befall unexpectedly. In view of this, it would have been much wiser to include the necessary funds for the inauguration in the 2013 state budget and to release the President’s Reserve Fund from this burden, let alone the Government’s Reserve Fund.

Sulkhan Saladze

Promotion of Accountability and Transparency in Georgia

Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association