Civil Service Bureau

The Problem

Before the implementation of the Online Asset Declaration System (OADS) the information regarding the income of public officials and the assets they owned was not transparent and thus undisclosed to the public. The Georgian society was unaware of the financial position of their public officials. Hence, the government did not feel financially accountable towards its citizens. In these conditions it was highly likely that a high ranking government official could be induced to receive unlawful and dishonest earnings, i.e. bribes and thus carry out one's official duties in ways that are inconsistent with the public interest.

On the other hand, there were no mechanisms in place that could be used by the citizens to observe and monitor the integrity and legitimacy of the activities undertaken by the government. The civil society as well as the media lacked the means to access the information on personal finances of the government officials, which is necessary to carry out their function of public watchdogs.

Furthermore, this lack of transparency undermined the principle of making an “informed decision” during elections, as the citizens were not familiar with the degree of impartiality and probity of the government of their choice.

To recapitulate, the status of the personal finances of the government officials and the information on the assets they owned lacked transparency to a significant extent thus increasing the likelihood of corrupt deals and self-interested behavior in the public service.

Solution and Key Benefits

 What is the initiative about? (the solution)
With the aim of providing a solution to the problem, the Online Asset Declaration System (OADS) was launched on February 1, 2010 by the Civil Service Bureau (CSB) of Georgia. Through this online system public officials are required to fill out their asset declarations on an annual basis, reflecting the position of the assets owned by them and their family members. Within 48 hours following the submission of the asset declaration the CSB tests its validity and consequently it is automatically published on the following web-site: www.declaration.gov.ge.

This public disclosure mechanism enables each citizen to freely search for and download the asset declaration of relevant public official, whose personal finances are interesting to him/her. The introduction of this initiative was met with a considerable interest among the wider public. Moreover, this public disclosure requirement can be considered as one of the most significant elements of the large-scale anti-corruption efforts of the Government of Georgia.

The typical asset declaration contains the following information on the public official and his/her family members: real estate, bank accounts, cash, expansive belongings (jewelry, cars); cash; contracts, expenditures, shares.
Up to now 132,417 declarations have been downloaded from the website. The biggest consumers of this system are NGOs and other civil society organizati0ons, media (investigative journalists) and international organizations as well as ordinary people. For example, Transparency international in Georgia regularly uses this system to measure the level of corruption within the public officials.
At the moment there are 2500 public officials which are obliged to report their asset declarations on the website.

Actors and Stakeholders

 Who proposed the solution, who implemented it and who were the stakeholders?
The solution was proposed and funneled by the Civil Service Bureau of Georgia, an institution responsible for ensuring good governance, transparency and accountability of the civil service system in Georgia. The actual implementation of the initiative was mainly facilitated by the Asset Declaration Department of the CSB and its employees, including the support provided by the team of lawyers, managers and IT specialists.
Before launching the software political consultations were carried out with the Parliament and the Government to make sure there is sufficient legislation in place. As a result of the consultations the law on “Conflict of Interest in the Public Service” was amended and the decree was issued by the President of Georgia in January, 2010.

(a) Strategies

 Describe how and when the initiative was implemented by answering these questions
 a.      What were the strategies used to implement the initiative? In no more than 500 words, provide a summary of the main objectives and strategies of the initiative, how they were established and by whom.
In order for the initiative to be successful from the very beginning, a clear and simple goal was determined by the Civil Service Bureau to guide its implementation: to increase the citizens’ awareness about their government to a significant extent and inform the government officials about the public disclosure of their personal finances, thus, notifying them about the intention of making their financial position a subject of a wider public scrutiny.

The means selected to achieve this goal and ensure the public accessibility of government officials’ asset declarations was one of the easiest and most straightforward ways to disclose information: the internet. By means of a specialized internet portal (www.declaration.gov.ge) the citizens could find and download the asset declaration of a government official of their interest effortlessly and efficiently.

(b) Implementation

 b.      What were the key development and implementation steps and the chronology? No more than 500 words
The strategic approach of the CSB for the launching of OADS has been executed in different stages. Overall technical scope of work has been elaborated to design the program and the web-page by the end of October, 2009. Meanwhile, a Presidential Decree was issued on January 14, 2010, which made it mandatory for all public officials to submit their asset declarations online at www.declaration.gov.ge.

One of the key elements ensuring the success of the system was the CSB’s broad awareness raising efforts for high ranking government officials. The CSB delivered extensive three day trainings for the heads of HR units of the public institutions about the main features of the new system and the way it functioned. HR managers served as key liaison points, ensuring the distribution of information among high ranking government officials within their home institutions as well as provided an ad hoc assistance in the process of declaration submission. Apart from this, the CSB launched a hotline and online assistance services to provide additional assistance and support for those who enter their financial data into the system.

(c) Overcoming Obstacles

 c.      What were the main obstacles encountered? How were they overcome? No more than 500 words
The implementation of the electronic asset declaration system has been a massive change. It is widely recognized that all radical changes introduced in any type of organization, whether public or private are met with at least some degree of resistance, especially when these transformations affect such sensitive issues as personal finances of public employees. The implementation of the OADS was not an exception to this rule. The main problem lied in the compulsory nature of the public disclosure of personal financial reports of the public officials. Not all the officials felt comfortable with this major change that affected their assets and finances, since to some extent this requirement threatened to limit some parts of their privacy. However, success in this process was made possible through relevant changes in the law, obligating the government officials to participate in this reporting procedure on an annual basis.

Other obstacles encountered during the implementation of the initiative were associated with the considerably law level of internet skills among public officials. Many of them expressed their concerns from the outset of this process, as they did not possess the necessary internet and general IT skills and thus had to start learning to work with these new tools from the elementary level. An important aspect in overcoming this major impediment was the provision of in-depth trainings for all the government officials and relevant HR managers prior to the official introduction of the system on February 1, 2010. Overall, one can observe that these training sessions not only enabled the government officials to properly submit their declarations online, but also raised the general level of their computer and internet skills, enabling them to meet their daily objectives more efficiently and successfully.

(d) Use of Resources

 d.      What resources were used for the initiative and what were its key benefits? In no more than 500 words, specify what were the financial, technical and human resources’ costs associated with this initiative. Describe how resources were mobilized
The Georgian Civil Service Bureau has been a key institution leading the initiation, design and implementation of this system. Hence, all the resources were mobilized within the CSB. Moreover, a team of ten of excellent lawyers, managers and IT specialists was the major driving force behind the successful implementation of the initiative.

As far as the costs of the initiative are concerned, almost USD 20,000 was spent on the design and implementation of the software. An additional USD 20,000 was allocated for the training sessions, public awareness campaign and further development of the software.
To compare, before the initiative it required almost 10-20 days to get any financial information on the public official (sometimes this was not adequate to the requested info). Now it takes only seconds to find and download the relevant asset declaration using OADS.

Sustainability and Transferability

  Is the initiative sustainable and transferable?
The Online Asset Declarations System www.declaration.gov.ge is an important anti-corruption mechanism, preventing unprofessional forms of behavior within the public service. Thus, it is essential for the CSB to guarantee its operational sustainability and constant update and development. For these purposes, the CSB actively monitors the system to identify the potential opportunities for its further functional improvement. For instance, it is planned to integrate newly issued citizens’ electronic-ID (electronic identification) cards within the OADS, in order to ensure the digital authorization of the user (high ranking official), simplifying the submission process and enhancing the security of the system. Apart from this, the CSB is currently working to add additional search options to the system. Currently citizens can look for the public official’s asset declaration based on his name, surname or position. In the future, the CSB plans to add analytical tools to the system, such as search by the real estate, bank accounts, annual income, contracts, etc.

Lessons Learned

 What are the impact of your initiative and the lessons learned?
The principal aim of the Online Asset Declaration System is to ensure accessibility and public disclosure of the financial information of high ranking public officials, promoting transparency and accountability of the government and increasing public monitoring and control. This system is actively consumed by the media and NGOs and referred to in various surveys, investigations and analysis. From the date the web-site was launched till present in total 132,417 asset declarations have been downloaded by various parties. The success of the overall cycle of this project starting from the initiation of the idea to the implementation of the system and monitoring of its results, coupled with the major outputs that have been delivered to date, would have been impossible without the dedication and professionalism of the CSB employees actively engaged in this process. The success of the system was emphasized on a numerous occasions in the reports of various international organizations, such as Transparency International, OECD, to name but a few.

To sum up, it is worth mentioning that the widespread willingness of the government to promote transparency and accountability by disclosing the most sensitive information to its citizens is an important prerequisite for the open and democratic society.

Contact Information

Institution Name:   Civil Service Bureau
Institution Type:   Government Agency  
Contact Person:   Irakli Kotetishvili
Title:   Director  
Telephone/ Fax:   +995322192727
Institution's / Project's Website:   www.declaration.gov.ge www.csb.gov.ge
E-mail:   ikotetishvili@csb.gov.ge  
Address:   7 Ingorokva street
Postal Code:   0134
City:   Tbilisi
Country:   Georgia

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