Non-Governmental Sector Criticizes Amendments to Law on Public Service

Non-Governmental Organizations and the Public Defender of Georgia have said they disapprove of initiated changes to the Law on Public Service under which employees of the President's Administration will no longer be classed as public servants.

The changes were initiated by the ruling Georgian Dream (GD) MPs Rati Ionatamishvili and Guram Macharashvili, and they transform the staff of the Presidential Administration from public servants into administrative personnel.

The NGO Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association (GYLA) described the regulations initiated in relation to the employees of the Presidential Administration as “unconstitutional.“

“The submitted legislative initiative contradicts the Constitution of Georgia, the practice of the Constitutional Court of Georgia and does not comply with the principles enshrined in the Law of Georgia on Public Service, thus grossly violates the labor rights of persons employed in the Presidential Administration,” the statement reads.

NGO Institute for Development of Freedom of Information (IDFI) said the proposal is contrary to the Georgian government’s stated policy, damages Georgia’s commitments to the European Union and are possibly also contrary to the Constitutional guarantees of fair employment.

“The initiated amendments infringe upon the rights of civil servants, pose a risk to the establishment of an effective, sustainable and politically neutral civil service in Georgia and generally to the successful implementation of public administration reform,” the statement of the NGO reads.

Nino Lomjaria, the Public Defender of Georgia, stressed the legislative initiative violates the labor rights of the employees, including the constitutional right of Georgian citizens to be protected from unjustified dismissal.

The Public Defender called on the Parliament of Georgia to consider the labor rights of professional public servants employed in the Presidential Administration, the right of Georgian citizens to be employed in the public service, as well as the values and principles of the new system of public service, and not to adopt the unconstitutional law.

“The draft law changes the status of the employees of the Presidential Administration without any justification, endangers their unhindered performance of duties and creates unconditional grounds for their dismissal,” Lomjaria’s statement reads.

The President’s Administration says the planned changes are “categorically unacceptable” as the employees of the Administration will not enjoy public servant guarantees and can be dismissed without any compensation or explanation.

"We are concerned that professionals who have been working in the administration for years are at risk. We fight for people who are very high rank employees and such attitude towards them is unacceptable for us,” President Giorgi Margvelashili’s advisor, Pikria Chikhradze, stressed.

MP Sergi Kapanadze of the opposition European Georgia party also assessed the proposal negatively, saying that it “abuses the principle of civil service,” while the United National Movement says the changes are the first step of “political cleansing” of the Presidential Administration from Margvelashvili’s staff.

Chairperson of the Procedures Committee Giorgi Kakhiani said Georgia’s public service reform was approved by the non-governmental sector and international organizations, adding there would be no changes that might negatively affect the reform.

By Thea Morrison

Image source: Video screenshot

13 December 2018 20:01