Prosecutor’s office said on Tuesday that it had summoned ex-PM and secretary general of UNM party Vano Merabishvili, as well as ex-healthcare minister Zurab Tchiaberashvili, who is now governor of Kakheti region, for questioning over ongoing investigation into alleged misspending of GEL 5.24 million public funds on UNM activists during election campaign last year.
In July, 2012 the government, which at the time was headed by Vano Merabishvili, announced about the program to register unemployed citizens with a purpose to create detailed data base of unemployed person to then help them with training and employment. Social Service Agency at the Ministry of Healthcare and Social Affairs was in charge of compiling data base. At the time the previous government also announced about hiring 3,000 registrants, or as they were called “employment agents”, to carry out registration of unemployed citizens.
Prosecutor’s office said in a statement on February 12 that in September the previous government hired additional 21,837 “employment agents”.
“As it has been established in the course of investigation, these 21,837 persons have not received any instruction about their work, no trainings have been carried out and no questionnaires to be filled in as part of the program handed out by the Social Service Agency,” the prosecutor’s office said, adding that total of GEL 5.24 million was allocated from the state budget to cover registrants’ salaries.
“2,000 people have been questioned as part of the ongoing investigation; testimonies show that 21,837 persons did not perform any work in frame of the program; they were actually paid for performing various campaign activities for the United National Movement, including participation in campaign rallies of the President, handing out UNM leaflets and party agitation,” prosecutor’s office said.
Investigation is carried out by Kutaisi-based district prosecutor’s office of western Georgia. Merabishvili and Tchiaberashvili were notified by prosecutors to appear for questioning in Kutaisi on February 13.
UNM parliamentary minority leader MP Davit Bakradze said that summoning of Merabishvili and Tchiaberashvili was part of “a large-scale campaign of pressure” on UNM leadership and its supporters. Bakradze, who participated in a meeting between President Saakashvili and parliamentary speaker Davit Usupashvili on Monday, said that despite of this “campaign of pressure”, UNM was ready to continue ongoing dialogue with the Georgian Dream.