Energy Minister Holds on Despite Corruption Charges
The parliamentary investigation commission says some 300 million US dollars were misappropriated in Georgia’s energy sector in course of past ten years. While the government agrees with the charges, nobody is held responsible.
According to the commission report the Energy Ministry is unable to ensure effective functioning of the country’s energy system. Funds are often misappropriated. Power facilities lack maintenance and are often sold at minimal price.
The commission concluded that the Georgian energy system lost 300 million USD because of the revealed crimes. The commission also claims that during the past ten years less than 15 million USD were spent for rehabilitation of the energy system, while the total sum of the foreign grants and credits for these purposes reaches 400 million USD.
“The Ministry was directly involved in misappropriating the 2,5 million USD, which must have been used for repair of the shield of Enguri hydropower station in order to increase energy generation by 40 million kWh per annum,” says Irakli Chubinishvili, head of the investigation commission.
Commission report also says that in 2001 the Minister of Energy David Mirtskhulava has signed a debt of 4,5 million USD to Armenia. The commission reports that because of further criminal actions the debt has increased to 7 millions, while only 400 000 USD were paid to Armenia. The rest of the money, the report says, disappeared through the intermediary firms.
Georgian State Security Minister Valeri Khaburdzania seems to share the opinion of the MPs regarding the corrupt practices in the energy sector. Khaburdzania said at the government’s meeting on December 11 that up to 20 million USD is lost annually because of the criminal activity in the system.
Although the Minister of Energy took fire both from the government and from the parliament in early December, he seems quite optimistic.
“I am not going to die for my position. Once I decide to resign I will immediately inform the President about it,” said Mirtskhulava, who believes that this campaign against him is nothing but a political game. Mirtskhulava also claims, that all crimes that were revealed by the commission were committed during terms of his predecessors.
The optimism of the Minister proved to be well founded. The parliament has been briefed by the investigative commission for two days, on December 5-6, but failed to take any decision regarding the issue.
The government also lacked firmness towards Mirtskhulava. In just one week, between the two Government Meetings, State Minister Avtandil Jorbenadze changed threatening tone to the appeasing one.
“The Energy Minister is a very good professional. Unlike his predecessors, he is able to lead the field and correct previous errors,” said Jorbenadze on December 11, also instructing Mirtskhulava to renew the staff of the Ministry.
"The investigation, conducted by the commission pursued two goals: requesting political responsibility for turmoil in the energy field and punishment of particular criminals, who are responsible for putting the system in such critical condition," says Irakli Chubinishvili, chairman of the investigation commission.
However, considering the adopted conclusion, it can be said that the commission failed achieving these goals. The Parliament could not make decision neither on the primary nor the alternate conclusion of the commission. The latter considered personal responsibility of the Energy Minister.
In his usual double-edged way, President Eduard Shevardnadze said, “[Mirtskhulaval must not make the new mistakes,” leaving the observers wondering whether the President is well aware of the previous mistakes of his minister.
Meanwhile the futile debates in the parliament ended in all too familiar an outcome: the Prosecutor General and the State Security Ministry will further look into the findings of the commission. Considering quite rich past experience this path is likely to lead nowhere.
Unsinkable battleship of the Georgian energy bosses continues its journey; while the majority of Georgians is sent back into the urban or rural caves without heat, without electricity, and without any hope for changes.
By Nino Khutsidze, Civil Georgia