“OVERVIEW OF GEORGIA’S ANTI-CORRUPTION REFORMS IN CITIZEN ENGAGEMENT
Georgia has witnessed remarkable achievement since the implementation of anti-corruption reforms “Rose Revolution” in November 2003. The reforms tailored towards improving service delivery to the citizenry in order to restore public confidence. These measures influenced the passage of new anti-corruption laws and adoption of an all-inclusive anti-corruption strategy and action plan in 2005, as well as endorsing a zero-tolerance policy. The strategy included institutional reforms, corruption prevention, open business environment, ratification and implementation of the international anti-corruption conventions and policies, enlisting and fostering the support of the public in the fight against corruption.
This article provide synopsis of the success of Georgia’s anti-corruption reforms in involving citizens and gaining their trust and the approaches adopted in combating the vicious cycle of corruption.
The country recorded great success in anti-corruption reforms by reducing staggering corruption indices to be barest minimum. Crime rates have dropped, customs and boarder systems were transformed, tax system regulated, accountability in the public service has been strengthened, service culture has been developed and public trust and confidence restored.
REACTIVE, PREVENTATIVE AND PROACTIVE APPROACHES
The reforms were reactive, proactive and preventative in nature. The reactive approach was the first part of the reforms which ensures that corrupt persons were investigated, prosecuted and punished. It affected many corrupt officials in the previous government of President Shevardnadze and closely associated business leaders. Between 2003 and 2010, about 1000 public officials have been charged with corruption offences in Georgia.
The preventative measures focused on the complete overhaul of the institutional systems, such as the police force, customs administration, university system, power sector, tax and payment structure, simplification of procedures and licensing businesses. To prevent corruption from taking place in public institutions, corrupt officials were sacked and new staff hired and trained.
The proactive measures strengthened the public bodies through designing and adopting long-term preventive and sanitary policies which tackled the enabling environment for corruption and improved public trust. This therefore, improves government performance; reduce corruption-prone areas in public bodies, and entrenched effective service delivery to the citizens. Public enlightenment, citizenry review through research and participation were also considered for recording success in the reforms.
Citizens were involved through information, consultation and active participation. The government realized the need to enlist citizens and foster their support, thus public enlightenment and public access to information on the reforms were the key factors that contributed immensely in actualizing the reforms, especially in government effort to streamline and eliminate unnecessary procedures, where junior level staff often gives feedback and suggestions on the ways to improve service delivery.
The citizens participated in the 24-hour hotline to submit their complaints or report corruption offences, and video cameras were all-over to give citizens proof of violation or evidence of the offence committed either by police, public official or even the citizen.
Anti-corruption legislations were promulgated and new measures put in place to punish offenders and provide stricter policies to eliminate corruption in the public system. The government established laws and order to make the citizens think differently, destroy the respect toward the criminal, and demonstrate the authority of formal legal institutions over weak/informal ones.
The government studied and borrowed the Italian anti-mafia model and the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act of the United States to establish its new criminal code and amendments in 2004 which was instrumental in instituting the reforms against criminals and corrupt persons. The government also approved the Tax Amnesty Legislation in 2004 that allowed taxpayers to declare all unreported assets before the end of 2005 with the exception of government officials.
Another new legislation which enabled the authorities to confiscate money and property from illicit follows and introduce the plea bargain come into effect through the New Zealand law on harassment and criminal association and the British Conspiracy Law designed to fight criminal organizations.
The laws were quickly adopted in order to strengthen the zero-tolerance policy. They were subsequently reviewed and revised to clear areas of ambiguities and close all gaps of manipulations by criminals.
CONTEXTUAL FACTORS TO GAIN CITIZEN TRUST
The reformers viewed that corruption permeated virtually all facets of life in Georgia. People pay bribes (against their will) to obtain most of the public services; therefore strong measures must be taken to drastically reduce the prevalence of corruption in the country, and also gaining public support is instrumental. Thus, the reformers debated the approach to reforms in a series of meetings and concluded that the reforms could not be gradual or in parts.
To gain public trust and confidence all corrupt criminals in public service were sacked and tried, new anti-corruption legislations were passed and promulgated, and citizens were informed and allowed to participate in the reforms process.” – Abbas Inuwa – Kaduna, Nigeria