An investigative journalism
website Bellingcat writes about corruption in the state tenders in Georgia during the coronavirus pandemic.
to a massive spread of the coronavirus globally, on the 21st of
March Georgia joined the list of
countries that declared a State of Emergency. Initially, lifting the state of
emergency was planned on April 21, but the Georgian government decided to
extend the restrictions for another month, until May 22. Georgia continues to
defer their decision to re-open their borders to most countries.
research show quite clearly how emergency situations promote corruptive
practices, with one analyst noting that “Opportunities to engage in corruption
are particularly high in emergency contexts, where controls are weak, funding
levels and media pressure are high” (Schultz & Søreide, 2006).
With the coronavirus pandemic and the sudden need for new government services, instead of utilizing electronic
tenders, so-called simplified state procurements take place in Georgia. This
practice implies awarding non-competitive government contracts to companies,
which may result in graft and breaches that include bribery, favoritism,
influence peddling and self-serving purposes of the ruling party.
to Transparency International, the practice of awarding
contracts to suppliers in an environment without fair competition places
companies with political connections into privileged positions, often allowing
them to triumph over their competitors that may actually be better suited to
provide the contracted services. As a result, corruption increases the cost of
public services, reduces the quality of work or services, and strengthens
political influence of stakeholders.
account that 2020 is election year for Georgia, the electoral system has been
changed to use proportional representation, and according to the the National Democratic Institute’s latest public opinion poll, the overall rating of opposition
parties is higher than that of the ruling party Georgian Dream, it is especially
urgent and vital that the government maximizes their financial and
administrative resources in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
first responses to the COVID-19 and especially during the state of emergency,
there has already been a wave of suspicious state procurements and
non-competitive contracts between the Georgian government and number of
companies, many of which have owners who are notable donors to the ruling
Georgian Dream party and linked to public officials.
investigation focuses mainly on two areas of procurement that have arisen as a
response to the coronavirus pandemic –purchases required for the Georgian
healthcare sector and hotel expenses used as quarantine zones. In the first
case, the major acquirer is the Ministry of Internally Displaced Persons from the
Occupied Territories, Labor, Health and Social Affairs
of Georgia (hereinafter, Ministry of Health), and in the second case the Georgian National Tourism
Administration and the Department of Tourism and Resorts of the Autonomous
Republic of Adjara.
Procurements in the healthcare sector
to the latest research of the IDFI, a number simplified procurements
for medical equipment and materials performed during the current emergency
situation were signed with recently-established companies. It is worth noting
that a number of these companies who received state procurements did not
operate in the medical field, and many have senior staff who are notable donors
to the ruling Georgian Dream party.
trend into view, we started to check the suppliers with whom the Ministry of
Health reached contracts. Below, we detail a number of suspicious state
procurement contracts related to the Georgian government’s response to the
coronavirus pandemic, focusing on those that were given to newly-established
companies, notable donors to the Georgian Dream party, and to companies without
any readily-apparent experience in the area of the awarded contracts. In each
of these, we show the original records of the contracts, along with basic
information on the companies awarded the contract and their beneficial owners,
One of the
suppliers is Weekend Ltd, which from 8 April 2020 to 10 June 2020 signed contracts with a
number of different state departments and acquirers, overall amounting well
over a million dollars. The most sizable procurement was from the Ministry of
Health, amounting to $1,329,680 (USD).
Bondo Goletiani, who contributed 25,000 GEL to the
presidential campaign of Salome Zurabishvili, owns 100% of the shares of Weekend Ltd. Zurabishvili is the so-called
independent candidate backed by the ruling Georgian Dream party.
Bondo Goletiani also
owns shares in other businesses, such as Restaurateur Ltd. and Georgian
Mobile Import Ltd., where his
business partners and family members Chichiko Goletiani and Lekso Goletiani are
listed. Chichiko and Lekso have also donated to Zurabishvili’s election
campaign, totaling 42,996 GEL. These donations were made on the same day.
Another business partner of Goletiani, Shalva Eristavi, has donated 60,000 GEL to the campaign. \
Another interesting purchase agreement was made
with Ad Media Ltd. to supply 40,000
three-layered facemasks. 25% of the company’s shares are held by Sergo
Galustyan, who has financially supported Georgian Dream and Salome Zurabishvili
by donating 100,000 GEL during election