On July 9, Transparency International Georgia, a local civil society organization, released a report on revenues and expenditures of 19 political parties. According to the document, the ruling Georgian Dream party was again “the richest party” last year, enjoying “unrivaled advantage” in terms of funding.
Revenues of political parties
The watchdog noted that in 2019, 19 political parties received a total of GEL 20,739,364 (USD 6.7 million) of which almost half – GEL 9,502,653, was secured by the ruling party. The Alliance of Patriots of Georgia was the second with GEL 1,676,618 (USD 550,000) and the European Georgia party was the third with GEL 1,643,099 (USD 540,000).
According to the report, 59% (GEL 12,301,675) of the total revenues received by political parties came from public funding, and 41% (GEL 8,437,689) was allocated via private sources. 18 political parties – excluding the governing party – got 88% of their income from the state budget.
The local watchdog highlighted that only 13 of the 19 political parties received private donations. More specifically, the political parties received a total of GEL 8,362,581 from 450 individuals and 26 legal entities.
“GEL 7,036,166 (84% of all private donations) went to the ruling Georgian Dream party. The private donations received by the Georgian Dream are about 14 times higher than those of the second-ranked Lelo party and five times higher than the donations received by 18 other political parties combined,” reads the report.
According to the document, from January 1, 2019, to May 1, 2020, nine legal entities donating Georgian Dream and 15 companies related to individual donors enjoyed simplified public procurement contracts amounting to GEL 15,750,924 (USD 5.1 million). During the same period, they also won public tenders worth of GEL 126,092,739 (USD 41.2 million).
Expenditures of political parties
TI Georgia noted that 19 political parties spent a total of GEL 20,723,057, of which 43% – GEL 8,877,711 – was spent by the ruling party, which was followed by the European Georgia with GEL 2,206,248 and the Alliance of Patriots of Georgia with GEL 1,671,775.
In 2019, political parties spent a total of GEL 2,352,736 on advertising services, of which the Georgian Dream spent GEL 1,747,140 (74%). “The Georgian Dream’s advertising expenses were three times higher than that of the rest 18 parties,” the report reads.
Other issues and recommendations
The watchdog said that the use of various types of anonymously sponsored political materials on social media, mostly on Facebook, remains “one of the major challenges” in regards to political finance.
Noting that the State Audit Office fails to control political expenditures in social networks, the CSO said the problem needs to be addressed.
Transparency International Georgia stated that the State Audit Office must pay closer attention to identifying high-risk donations, properly examine the content of declarations, and pay attention to capacity building of political parties in the area of financial reporting.