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27 Dec 2021

Statement Of The State Inspector Londa Toloraia

On 25 December 2021, the staff of the State Inspector’s Service including myself learnt through the media that the Parliament of Georgia initiated a draft law on abolishing the State Inspector’s Service and establishing two new institutions instead. The process of drafting the law was completely conspiratorial. Its drafting was unknown to the State Inspector’s Service as well as international organizations and other experts in the field.

The date of initiating the draft law and accelerated process of its examination, somehow coincided with the pre-New Year situation, including, the absence of the absolute majority of the representatives of international and diplomatic corps in Georgia and personally, the period of my maternity leave.  It makes me think that this is not a coincidence, actually. As it seems, it was deemed that with an infant of a few days, it would be hard to defend the interests of my institution. However, I am here and I will do the maximum to protect the integrity of the Service and the interests of every employee.

The State Inspector’s Service is a team of highly qualified professionals, which, over the last two years has done maximum to respond to all the challenges and on the one hand, preserved a high standard of personal data protection and on the other hand, created a policy for the effective investigation of crimes committed by civil servants. By this, the Service has addressed the major challenge and the reason it was created for – it managed to raise the public trust in investigating this category of crimes.

Despite the fact that we have had numerous obstacles – we had and still have insufficient legislative instruments for the independence and ineffective operational instruments, insufficient financial and human resources, we had and still have a problem in terms of cooperation with other public agencies, the team of the Service, through conscientious work managed to establish as an independent state authority and gained public trust. After two years of its establishment, the work of the Service is positively assessed by the international as well as local organizations.

In order to address the challenges the Service faces:

  • Back in 2019, we submitted a new draft law on “Personal Data Protection” in line with the international standards to the Parliament of Georgia, which has been pending discussion for more than 2 years;
  • In 2021, we submitted a detailed and critical report of 2020 activities to the Parliament, which for the first time in history, the Parliament has not heard;
  • On 24 December 2021, we submitted a legislative proposal to the Parliament aimed at institutional strengthening of the Service and elimination of the obstacles existing in the process of investigating crimes committed by civil servants. The Parliament has not expressed an interest in this proposal either.

I would like to remind the Parliament of Georgia and the public that Since 2019, the Personal Data Protection Authority got entrusted with the function of investigating crimes committed by civil servants by the Parliament, with the participation of the Members of the Parliament who are the authors of the current draft law.

Instead of supporting the Service to further strengthen it, the Parliament of Georgia has started an accelerated and dangerous process of  abolishing the Service.

 

The reason for the abolition of the State Inspector’s Service as indicated is that accumulating two functions – personal data protection and investigative functions creates a conflict of interest and endangers the protection of data. Furthermore, it was mentioned that by this, the recommendation issued by the non-governmental sector in 2018 on establishing an independent investigative service will be fulfilled.

 

The conflict of interest was not seen by the Parliament of Georgia in 2018 and was not deemed as a reasonable argument. The recommendation of the non-governmental sector became topical only today when the State Inspector’s Service managed to become an independent state agency. Before initiating the draft law, the Parliament of Georgia has not asked any questions about whether or not the coexistence of two functions under one agency has created any problems. Moreover, the annulment of the State Inspector’s Service by the Parliament of Georgia in the name of personal data protection cannot resist any critics given the fact that since May of 2019, a draft law on “Personal Data Protection” aimed at establishing a high standard of personal data protection in Georgia is submitted to the Parliament of Georgia without further discussion.

 

As for the commentaries given by the Members of the Parliament, that this initiative serves to the strengthening of the investigative function, is not in compliance with the reality. The draft laws are copies of the existing law on State Inspector’s Service. There is not a single word in the draft law on strengthening the Service. There are not reflected any of the recommendations issued by the international organizations, non-governmental sector, nor any of the challenges indicated in the 2020 activities report of the State Inspector’s Service submitted to the Parliament of Georgia.

 

Two novelties are proposed by the draft Law:

 

  • Firstly – several provisions from Criminal Code of Georgia are to be added to the jurisdiction of forthcoming investigative entity. However, these crimes practically do not occur in the context of official misconducts. It is also noteworthy that these newly added provisions do not apply to the employees of prosecutor’s office as well as to other civil servants. The new jurisdiction applies solely to the employees of law enforcement agencies, that in fact, was already subordinated to the State Inspector’s Service’s jurisdiction.
  • Secondly, and the most alarmingly, the new draft Law abolishes the institution instead of its reorganization/restructuring. Elected position of the State Inspector is also abolished and from 01 March, 2022 all the employees of the Service remain unemployed. In other words, in spite of reallocation of the existing qualified staff in two entities that are to be created on the basis of the State Inspector’s Service (as it took place in 2019 in case of the establishment of the State Inspector’s Service and in case of division of the Ministries of Education and Culture), the Parliament of Georgia decided to dismiss us all. Not only an independent State Inspector is unacceptable for them, but also the whole staff of the Service. The employees that were hired through an open and transparent competition and were selected for their professionalism. Simultaneously, the draft law provides for various discriminatory approaches towards the employees of the Service, that is anti-constitutional.

 

This is an extremely dangerous precedent not only for the State Inspector’s Service, but also for the entire country. This process endangers all the elected officials, creates a feeling of uncertainty and pressure on their activity. At the same time, this is a clear message to all civil servants that for their fairness they may become unemployed one day.

 

The State Inspector’s Service and Londa Toloraia will never be against progressive reforms. However, it is obvious, that this initiative is not a reform – it’s an operation against an independent institution and its independent staff. This is a punishment of the Service for its: independence; impartial and faithful attitude to the job; being law-abiding institution; its legitimate decisions towards public intuitions; their critical and different position on the reform on separation of investigative and prosecutorial activities; the proposals submitted to the prosecutor’s office upon which initiation of criminal prosecution was asked against officials, however none were satisfied; implementing new standards for the prosecution of official misconducts; our different position on the Law of Georgia on Information Security and many other factors. Moreover, the members of the Parliament in their comments expressed dissatisfaction about the decisions of the Service several times.

 

No institution has been reorganized/restructured through these methods; all the more – no elected positions were abolished prematurely.

 

More than 100 professional and dignified persons are employed at the Service. The illegitimacy and unfairness camouflaged/faked by the adoption of the law shall not be the basis for their dismissal.

 

Therefore:

 

I address the Parliament of Georgia to:

 

  • Discontinue/cease the process of abolishment of the independent institution;

 

  • Instead, to discuss the draft Law on “Personal Data Protection” that was presented by the State Inspector’s Service two years ago and which definitely serves advancement of data protection standards in Georgia;

 

  • To initiate and discuss legislative amendments presented by the State Inspector’s Service 3 days ago (on 24 December), that aimes eradication of the real challenges in the process of investigating official misconducts.

 

In addition, I would like to ask international community, civil sector, the Public defender, members of society/public, please despite the holiday season, participate in the discussions, as this case concerns an extremely important institution which serves to protect human rights.

 

Hereby, I would like to thank everyone who supported the Service in this critical moment.