“Dismissal of politically neutral deputies, while keeping the ruling party-affiliated deputy, creates doubts on the political motivation of the decision,” a group of nine civil society organizations stated on October 2, shortly after Irakli Mekvabishvili, newly-appointed head of the State Audit Office, dismissed Nino Lomjaria and Devi Vepkhvadze from their posts, but decided to keep Nodar Javakhishvili, former Regional Development Minister in the Georgian Dream government.
“The doubts are further amplified in light of the ongoing pre-election campaign, when it is particularly important for the Audit Office to remain impartial in monitoring the financial reports of electoral subjects,” the organizations said, stressing that it was Nino Lomjaria, “principled, independent and neutral professional,” who oversaw the political finance monitoring component at the State Audit Office and that her dismissal “just days before” the election day was “unclear.”
“We call on the Chief Auditor to remain impartial in his work and to refrain from making decisions, which could create doubts on his political motivations and biases, and which will, eventually, negatively affect the reputation and the public trust towards the State Audit Office as an independent institution,” CSOs noted.
On October 2, Irakli Mekvabishvili presented two former bankers Davit Gogichaishvili and Ekaterine Ghazadze as his new deputies. “The new deputies were selected based on their high qualifications and professionalism. Their joint work with the State Audit Office staff will further strengthen our overall performance,” Mekvabishvili said at his press briefing.
Nino Lomjaria, who previously served as the head of Georgia’s largest election monitoring group, the International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy, was appointed to the post in November, 2016.
The State Audit Office is an independent institution accountable to the Parliament, which is mandated to supervise the use of public funds by state bodies and monitor the financial activities of political parties.