DRI: The action plan of the Government in the part of improving parliamentary control over the security sector is flawed
On November 27, 2023, the Governmental Commission for European Integration approved measures for the implementation of the steps defined for Georgia in the European Commission's 2023 Communication on EU Enlargement Policy. According to the European Council’s decision of December 15, 2023, Georgia received candidate status on certain conditions. Namely, the European Commission defined steps to be fulfilled by Georgia, one of which was the further improvement of parliamentary oversight, especially over the security services.
Despite the direct reference, the Government's plan does not provide for actual measures in this direction. According to the plan, “A regular dialogue will be held with all parliamentary political parties and non-governmental organizations to improve oversight practices. In addition, in February 2024, the parliamentary Trust Group will be fully staffed.
The Democracy Research Institute considers that only full staffing of the Trust Group cannot be considered a sufficient measure to fulfill the steps defined by the European Commission, and that the Government's plan is flawed in this direction.
The current edition of the Rules of Procedure of the Parliament of Georgia obliges the Parliament to staff the Trust Group with five members. The fact that today there are only four members in the Trust Group actually shows the absence of political will, as Georgian Dream did not give the parliamentary opposition the opportunity to elect the fifth member in the Group by referring to the procedural flaw. The parliamentary opposition, on the other hand, did not pay due attention to the issue of fully staffing the Trust Group.
According to the action plan, the Trust Group will be fully staffed by February 2024. Another challenge in this regard is the time limit for accessing classified information. Even if the Parliament achieves an agreement to fulfill the obligation of the Rules of Procedure at least at this stage and to staff the Trust Group with 5 members (elect the fifth member from the parliamentary opposition), the procedure of checking the candidate for membership of the Trust Group for giving him access to state secrets may last up to 6 months. Past practice shows that the State Security Service usually uses the maximum period provided by law to grant the right of access to state secrets to the potential member of the Trust Group. Accordingly, this condition is formal, because the new member of the Trust Group will not have real time or opportunity to exercise control over the security sector in the Parliament of the tenth convocation.
DRI's long-term observations make it clear that parliamentary control over the security sector is particularly weak. That is why it is no coincidence that the European Commission singled out the security services and directly told the State to take effective steps in this direction. A necessary but insufficient measure for the full implementation of the recommendation is regular dialogue with parliamentary political parties and non-governmental organizations, the purpose of which, according to the Government's plan, is to improve the oversight practice.
The Democracy Research Institute considers that the plan approved by the Government should include the obligation to implement the necessary legislative changes that will actually serve to improve oversight of the security sector. Inter alia, it is important:
- To abolish the part of paragraph 3 of Article 40 of the Rules of Regulation of the Parliament of Georgia, which establishes a different procedure for summoning the head of the State Security Service of Georgia to the committee session.
- To make changes to the procedure for staffing the Trust Group, so that to eliminate the problem with fully staffing the Group and increase the representation of the parliamentary opposition in the Group.
- To staff the Trust Group with equal numbers of representatives of the opposition and the G
- To increase the frequency of meetings of the Trust Group and make changes to the rules of holding meetings.
- To enable any member of the Trust Group to visit an accountable agency, by informing the chairman, but without his mandatory consent.
- In order to effectively exercise control, to give members of the Trust Group access to more information (except for hidden forms and methods of activity).
- To increase the degree of accountability of the Trust Group. The Trust Group should submit an activity report to the P In addition, each member of the Trust Group should have the opportunity to submit an alternative report if they disagree with the Trust Group’s activity report/part of the report.
- To increase the degree of accountability of the operational-technical agency before the Parliament of Georgia.
- To simplify the procedure for putting an issue on the agenda of the committee meeting at the request of the committee member/members.
The Democracy Research Institute has prepared a draft law on the Rules of Procedure of the Parliament of Georgia, which aims to implement effective parliamentary control over the security sector by increasing the mandate and accountability of the Trust Group. The said draft law has been initiated in the Parliament of Georgia, however, it has not been discussed in the parliamentary committees until now.
Among the 12 priorities defined by the European Commission in 2022, the strengthening of oversight of accountable agencies had an important place. Despite numerous efforts by the Democracy Research Institute, improvement of security sector oversight has been neglected.
DRI was involved in a working group created within the Procedural Issues and Rules Committee to improve parliamentary oversight, where it presented recommendations to improve oversight of the security sector. However, the working group did not consider the recommendations on the basis that the working group created within the Defence and Security Committee would work on those issues. Since the Parliament of Georgia allowed the Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum Georgian National Platform to nominate only two civil society organizations in the working groups, despite its desire, the Democracy Research Institute could not participate in the group and its recommendations were not considered in this working group either.
The Democracy Research Institute was not able to get involved in the meetings held to implement the nine priorities either. Due to the importance of the issue, DRI considers it necessary to evaluate the Government's plan, which in fact does not provide for any effective measures in this direction, and to remind the relevant actors of a number of challenges at the legislative level related to the security sector.
The next parliamentary elections will be held in October 2024.