NGOs React to Amendments to the Law on Public Service affecting Employment of Municipal Public Servants following the 2014 Elections
On February 5, 2013, the law of Georgia on Public Service was amended. These amendments are integral part of the self-government reform considering that they have been enacted in frames of legislative package unveiled for the noted purpose. Pursuant to these amendments, all civil servants employed at local self-government bodies, including those appointed on the basis of competition, will be considered as interim public servants following the upcoming 2014 local elections, while competitions will announced for the vacated positions.
The initial draft of the legislative package did not contain any such provision. Apparently, it was added to the draft law just before its third and final plenary reading and therefore, it was not part of the public discussions. The fact that the public was not duly informed about the inclusion of the provision suggests that the process of discussion of the Self-Government Code and accompanying draft laws was flawed and deficient which is unacceptable, especially given the magnitude and importance of the reform. Notably, the provision was included in the package in violation of the requirements of regulations of the parliament. In particular, the present norm falls under the category of principles and should have, therefore, been reflected in the text of the document prior to holding the first reading.
The adopted amendment itself contradicts the rights and principles guaranteed by the Constitution as well as the very law on Public Service. Article 13 of the law stipulates the stability of the service personnel and their economic, social, and legal protection as the founding principles of the Public Service in Georgia. Public service employment is regulated by para.1, Article 29 of the Georgian Constitution that guarantees the right to hold a public office for every citizen that meets the requirements established by the law. The Constitutional Court of Georgia comments that in addition to the government’s responsibility to impose reasonable and non-discriminatory regulations for appointing a person in public service, the above rule also includes public servants’ right to be protected from any arbitrary dismissal from office.
The amendment is even more discouraging in light of the upcoming municipal elections and raises legitimate suspicions about intentions to mobilize public servants for party campaigns. Work and behavior of civil servants employed at local self-government bodies must be unrelated to the electoral cycle. Subsequently, we believe that the above change can seriously damage the trust towards the electoral process. Enactment of the norm ahead of local elections will create the sense of instability among public servants, and with great likelihood, they will act in favor of the ruling party in the pre-election campaigns in order to preserve their jobs. It also raises concerns that it will outweigh the positive initiatives introduced in the self-government reform.
The amended law will come into force from the day of the official announcement of the results of the 2014 Local Elections. We believe that it should not be retained or enforced and, therefore, urge the authorities - Parliament and the Government of Georgia, to take all necessary measures for preventing the enactment of the provision. Otherwise, we will file in the Constitutional Court for invalidating the provision.
International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy (ISFED)
The Georgian Young Lawyers' Association (GYLA)
Transparency International - Georgia
Open Society Georgia Foundation (OSGF)