Democratic Research Institute responds to draft law on independent Anti-Corruption Agency.
“Since February 2021, the Democracy Research Institute has been implementing a project “Support to the Security Sector Reform in Georgia”. The project aims to advocate for institutional reforms in the State Security Service and to reduce the risk of abuse of power.
The Democracy Research Institute welcomes the initiative of the Lelo for Georgia Party regarding the submission of a draft law on the National Anti-Corruption Agency to the Parliament and expresses its willingness and readiness to cooperate with the initiators of the bill.
The Democracy Research Institute shares a view that giving an anti-corruption mandate to a closed agency such as the State Security Service of Georgia is unjustified.
The legislative package on the establishment of the National Anti-Corruption Agency was initiated in 2020, however, the Parliament of the 10th convocation did not consider it expedient to continue consideration of the bill. DRI hopes that despite the rejection of the bill, fight against nepotism and corruption remains a priority for the State.
Despite progress in the fight against corruption, a number of reforms remain to be carried out to reduce the risks of corruption. The journalistic investigation has revealed a number of alleged large-scale corruption crimes, which have not been properly responded to by the relevant investigative bodies.
In view of the above, DRI hopes that the legislative body will actually assess the existing risks and challenges and start working to improve the existing bill that addresses the following issues:
Equipping the Agency with broad discretionary powers and adequate resources
DRI welcomes the spirit of the bill to establish an independent and highly accountable anti-corruption agency and considers that the bill should set out the kind of procedure for electing the chair of the agency, which would require parliamentary participation.
Avoiding duplication of competencies and parallel investigative systems
According to the currently applied legislation, in parallel with the Anti-Corruption Agency of the State Security Service, the Prosecutor"s Office of Georgia, the General Inspectorate of the Ministry of Justice and the State Inspector"s Office have the authority to investigate corruption crimes. Unfortunately, legislation does not clearly define what kind of crimes should be investigated by each particular agency. This, in turn, creates risks of duplication of powers and ineffective investigation.
Despite the fact that the State Security Service aims to ensure state security, the DRI study reveals that the agency’s core resources are focused on tackling petty corruption, as evidenced by the agency’s annual reports as well. Consequently, instead of directing resources to investigating high-profile crimes, the Security Service investigates cases that, in essence, fall within the scope of the police investigation.
The submitted draft law does not exclude the risks of duplication of investigative powers and needs to be refined in this regard. According to the Democracy Research Institute, in order to avoid duplication of investigative powers, it is important to:
Equip the new, independent Anti-Corruption Agency with the exclusive power to investigate corruption crimes (unless a specific crime is committed by an employee of the Agency);
Exclude the investigation of corruption crimes from the investigative jurisdiction of the State Security Service and the Prosecutor"s Office of Georgia.
Introducing appropriate accountability mechanisms
It should be noted that the creation of an independent body with broad powers is accompanied by the risks of abuse of power, so it is necessary to establish statutory oversight/control mechanisms, namely:
Regulate at the legislative level the obligation of the Head of the Agency to submit an activity report, periodically (at least once a year), together with proposals on improving the activities of the Agency, to the legislative body;
Establish an independent group (composed of MPs, independent experts and representatives of NGOs) that will have the authority to oversee the Agency. In turn, define the obligation of this group to draw up a report on the activities of the independent Anti-Corruption Agency, which will be publicly available.
To enhance the transparency of the independent Anti-Corruption Agency and public trust in it, it is necessary to oblige the Agency to publish detailed activity reports”, - reads the information, released by the DRI.