The situation in Georgia before 2004 worrisome, corruption permeated nearly every aspect of life in the country. The public sector gave room for corruption that negatively impacted on the entire economy. The Police, Tax authorities, Customs, aviation and many other sectors of the economy were corrupt. The new government started in January, 2004 with an empty treasury and failed state. This situation forces the new government to start a full-flagged anticorruption crusade to save the country from total collapse.
In the quest to rescue the country and to establish credibility the new government focused on series of reforms in all the sectors of the economy with specific and early rescue of the patrol police to cub crimes and tax reform to salvage the country empty treasury. This led to the arrest and subsequent prosecution of criminals and corrupt officials of the previous government. The reforms sought to gain citizens trust through information and active participation.
The anticorruption reforms in Georgia were successful in involving the citizens to gain their trust in the following areas:
- REACTIVE, PROACTIVE AND PREVENTATIVE ANTICORRUPTION REFORMS: The early approaches used in each of the reforms are reactive in nature, they include disengagement of 16,000 traffic police and replacing them with 2,300 new once in few month, arrest and subsequent prosecution of criminals and corrupt officials of the previous government, amnesty in tax collection, plea bargain arrangement to recoup looted public fund, prosecution of corrupt tax officials among others. On the other hand, the proactive approaches include, changing citizen’s mindset about criminals through communication of information on television portraying criminals are no more respected in the society and the need for credibility in government businesses. Others include proactive anticorruption awareness campaign on new policies. Recruitment of new staff and subsequent training in Customs, undercover Agents and tax authorities as well as declaration of income and assets of public officials on a dedicated website for public information are among the preventative approaches adopted in the reforms.
- INFORMATION, CONSULTATION AND ACTIVE PARTICIPATION: Citizens in Georgia were involved in anticorruption reforms through information, consultation and active participation. They were informed about the zero tolerance for corruption at the early stage of the reforms, about the reactive measures taken against criminals and corrupt officials, changes in rules and regulations, policy and institutional changes through television news and official websites. On the other hand, citizens were involved through consultation such as right to report corrupt government officials, receiving petitions, investigation and prosecution of offenders. In addition, the Georgians were given rights to use mechanisms that allow them to hold those in power accountable through active participation to influence their elections/selection for government positions and participated actively in decision making process.
- LEGAL REGULATION, POLICY, INSTITUTIONAL AND OPERATIONAL TOOLS: The anticorruption reforms in Georgia used legal framework that gave citizens rights to access information e.g assets declaration on a dedicated official website by public officials. They were also involved in consultation through right to petition public officials. In addition, they were allowed to participate in government by influencing the selection processes of government officials during the reforms. Also, policies that aid communication of information about the reforms on television news and telegraphs are put in place in order to guide consultation and participation of CSOs and NGOs in decision making.
Institutions responsible in each sector were mandated to provide access to information about new reforms and changes communicated to the citizens. New institutional arrangements to address issues bordering on appeals process and disputes resolution that includes members from civil society organisations are steps toward strengthening the accountability framework and give room for citizens consultation and active participation. This gave the citizens formal presence in decision making forums.
However, operating tools such as toll-free numbers and adverts are provided to allow citizens access to information on the reforms activities. Opinion polls, workshops, draft policies and public hearings were conducted at different levels of implementation in order to provide avenues for citizens consultations and active participation by being presence at such forums and participate in decision making.
CONTEXTUAL FACTORS TAKEN INTO ACCOUNT BY REFORMERS IN ORDER TO GAIN THE TRUST OF CITIZENS: In order to gain the trust of citizens the reformers have to put certain factors into consideration. These include; strong political will, establishment of early credibility, launching frontal assault on the criminals and corrupt officials, limiting direct contact with customers in the administration of taxes and customs, adopting unconventional methods in financing early reforms and increased incentives for police and tax officials. Other factors as observed from the case study include, close monitoring of the reforms implementation, tailoring international experience learned from other countries of the world to local conditions and harnessing technology in the implementation of reforms e.g use of computers to check if a driver has a license. Effective use communications strategies in order to gain the trust of the citizens for the success of the reforms by the government and involving citizens in decision making are some of the major promising factors. ” – Murtala Bello Kankanu – Kaduna, Nigeria