Parliament initiated on March 13 procedures required for constitutional amendment to rename state audit agency, Chamber of Control, into Supreme Chamber of Audit and Financial Transparency.
The Parliament voted for launching a month-long public discussion of the draft.
The state audit agency, which from late last year became in charge of monitoring political finances too, has come under fire for summoning in last two days dozens of opposition activists from Bidzina Ivanishvili-led coalition for questioning, mainly in the western regions of the country.
Dozens of activists of those opposition parties, which are part of Ivanishvili-led coalition, received notifications from deputy head of the political parties’ financial monitoring service at the Chamber of Control requiring from them to appear before the agency’s representative and give “explanations” in connection to unspecified probe related to alleged sham deals in political funding.
Levan Bezhashvili, head of the Chamber of Control, said on March 13, that the process was part of the agency’s examination of political finances and it aimed at “gathering information” in order “to clarify” how financial declarations submitted by political parties match with actual spending of parties in the regions.
A local activist of the Republican Party, part of Ivanishvili-led coalition, in Lanchkhuti of Guria region told a local media outlet, Guria News, that she had been questioned for several hours in the building of local municipal administration, repeatedly asked about how much she had been paid for distributing newspapers of Ivanishvili’s movement, Georgian Dream, and for collecting signatures of citizens in favor of restoring Ivanishvili’s Georgian citizenship. She said that while she had been paid for collecting of citizens’ signatures, no paying was made for distribution of newspapers; she said that during questioning she had been “advised” to testify that she had received GEL 100 for distribution of newspapers and called the process of questioning “psychological pressure”.
Tbilisi-based legal advocacy group, Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association, said that it was providing a legal aid to some of the opposition activists in Chochatauri, also in Guria region, who had been summoned by the state audit agency. The group said, citing its lawyers, that activists were mainly asked questions about their political affiliations, distribution of Georgian Dream’s newspapers, collecting citizens’ signatures in favor of Ivanishvili’s Georgian citizenship and whether they were paid for it.
“Asking these questions lasts for several hours, which is depressive for citizens,” GYLA said on March 13.
Also on March 13 head of the Chamber of Control, Levan Bezhashvili, met with representatives from local non-governmental organizations to discuss legislative amendments “to further improve” the law on political parties, the state audit agency said.
“During the meeting setting up of an advisory council with the participation of non-governmental organizations was also discussed, which would increase involvement of non-governmental sector and its awareness about the work of [political parties’] financial monitoring service,” the Chamber of Control said.