LPPL Investigative Reporting Association (IRA) received GEL 40 thousand for making investigative materials in May 2013. Amount was allocated from GEL 1 million allocated from Presidential Reserve Fund for supporting civil sector, civil society and free media. Product made in framework of the Project was to be published on Politico.ge website, although, in reality, no investigative materials have been created.
By 17 December 2012 decision by President Mikheil Saakashvili, GEL 1 million was divided between two foundations – Caucasus Institute of Peace, Democracy and Development), headed by Gia Nodia, received GEL 800,000 and Zaza Daraseli’s Journalism Development Fund was funded with GEL 200,000. They were to divide the amounts between non-commercial legal entities based on competitions.
Founding of Politico.ge
Internet-portal Politico.ge was registered as limited liability company (LLC) in 10 days after President Saakashvili’s decision to allocate GEL 1 million. Its Director was former Imedi TV journalist Zura Khvistani, who hired former owner of Imedi Giorgi Arveladze as his consultant.
4 April 2013 Zurab Khvistani told Media.ge that he created the website by his own savings, although planned to cooperate with different organizations for receiving grants.
CIPDD conducted the competition for issuing grants in two stages. At first 21 February 2013 the Organization set 12 March as deadline for submission of applications. Applicants were to start project activities 1 April 2013 and complete them before 31 December. GEL 40 thousand was defined as maximum amount of funding for one organization.
Later the Organization changed the decision and 22 March funded total of 12 organizations with total of GEL 300 thousand. Gia Nodia stated that for the remaining amount competition would be announced 1 April. He gave only 12 days for submission of applications and set 12 April as deadline, although the given date was changed also and postponed till 21 April. In an interview with Media.ge Project Coordinator Rusudan Tabukashvili said that grants were being issued only to non-commercial legal persons; majority of media organizations are LLC’s and they did not have time to change legal statuses.
Founding of the Investigative Reporting Association
LPPL Business Reporting Association was registered in business registry 11 April, one day ahead of the deadline of submission of applications for the competition repeatedly announced by CIPDD. Chairman of Board is Kakhaber Gigitelashvili, who was Deputy Director General of TV-Company Imedi during the period when the channel was in ownership of Giorgi Arveladze’s Company. Gigitelashvili and former Marketing Director of Imedi Dimitry Kilaberidze were registered as members of Board of the Business Reporting Association.
On the next day, last day of competition the organization requested change of name and instead of business it became Investigative Reporting Association (IRA), although submitting documentation did not include payment receipt, which came as basis for stop of proceedings. Accordingly they were late with submitting the application. Meanwhile the deadline for submission of applications was postponed till 21 April.
Change of name of Investigative Reporting Association was finally registered in the Registry 10 May, although before that, 2 May, CIPDD announced Investigative Reporting Association organization as winner of competition and issued GEL 40 thousand grant to it. 103 applications were submitted to competition and there were only 7 winners.
It is noteworthy that 7 May Politico.ge Director Zurab Khvistani, registered LPPL Politico and used the Statute identical to that of Investigative Reporting Association in founding documentation; this was done the way that in several parts of the document even the name of the organization was not changed and instead of Politico it still says Investigative Reporting Association.
Media.ge requested information about the tender documentation and project implementation report submitted by the Investigative Reporting Association to CIPDD. Received documentation showed that in competition project Investigative Reporting Association used exactly the same what it defined in activity objectives in its Status and which was later used by LPPL Politico.
The Organization pledged to in framework of project receive from any interested person or beginner journalists ideas for conducting of journalistic investigation, to choose the best ideas and to insure help in implementation of those ideas – professional cameramen, cut-editors were to be provided, to provide working space and circulate the created product to the public; they planned to use social networks and to create information website for circulating information.
CIPDD-provided information reads that the grant issuing competition commission was formed by independent experts. None of them have any position of the Caucasian Institute: Andro Gigauri, Lela Khomeriki, Levan Gambashidze, Merab Basilia and Nino Bolkvadze.
Levan Gambashidze told Media.ge that each project was evaluated by points according to preliminarily set criteria and the Investigative Reporting Association has won the competition due to satisfying the aforementioned criteria.
IRA requested GEL 40 thousand for project implementation, although the document shows that they have not described in detail what the given amount was to be used for.
1.5-page project implementation report sent by the Director of Investigative Reporting Association Kakhaber Gigitelashvili to CIPDD reads that information about project implementation has been posted on politico.ge and young journalists willing to participate in the project were invited to the office. Information was monthly posted on the website and materials made within the project were also posted there.
Association unknown to Internet
Investigative Reporting Association is an unknown organization not only to Politico.ge but also to Google search system. Only materials made by Media.ge and CIPDD on competition winning fact can be searched on Internet. The telephone number indicated in the project is also switched off due to nonpayment. In an interview with Media.ge Director Kakha Gigitelashvili admitted that investigative materials have not been made at all. Below is the transcript of conversation with Gigitelashvili:
- We organized training in conducting of journalistic investigation. All this had educative function. We had the opportunity to show these people how to communicate with equipment. How it happens, what happens…
Media.Ge: This means instead of making films the project turned into training?
- Yes, it turned into trainings. Journalistic investigation is not only making films. It can also be a newspaper. Film is the next stage.
Media.Ge: Has the text version been published anywhere? Has it been made?
- We generally speak about training.
Media.Ge: So no material has been made?
- Yes, there has been no material.
Kakhaber Gigitelashvili claims that training was conducted for students, although he cannot recall their number of contact information. Number of project participants is not indicated in the report either. According to Gigitelashvili, office has been closed down and they plan to search for funding in order for Project participants to “use knowledge received really for something.” He claims that they have no affiliation with Politico and that the given website was just chosen as one of information circulation channels.
Spent GEL 40 thousand
Project implementation report (duration 6 months) shows that from the received GEL 40 thousand, four persons have received GEL 24,580. These persons are: Administratove Dimitry Kilaberidze – GEL 7,180; journalist David Osepashvili – GEL 6,480; cameraman Kakhaber Roinishvili – GEL 8,640 and accountant Nino Batiashvili – GEL 2,280.
Remaining GEL 15,420 has been paid for equipment rent.
It appeared that ICPDD has also expressed interest to the issue of project implementation by the Investigative Reporting Association. In response to additional questions sent by Media.ge to CIPDD, Executive Director of the Organization Avtandil Khokhadze said that the Project Monitoring Group did not assess as satisfactory in February the implementation report on the project completed by the Investigative Reporting Association back in September.
“We do not count that they based on submitted materials they have convinced the monitoring group in satisfactory completion of the project. They themselves believe they have done it,” Avtandil Jokhadze told Media.ge.
He also stressed that the Association has been instructed to submit detail descriptions and documentation, although, as the management of the Association said, there are certain problems with submitting the given documentation.
“As the Association management clarified the problems are connected to change of their office… Reporting Association Director Kakhaber Gigitelashvili confirms that Politico.ge website has been blocked. Association received a recommendation from us, the Caucasian Institute, to change the addressee or to post materials on another website. In case of necessity we will propose the Association to use our, Caucasian Institute website free-of-charge,” Avtandil Jokhadze stressed.
According to him, audit of the project will be completed in the nearest future and CIPDD will publicize the audit conclusion.
Investigative Reporting Association Project Application (Gerogian)
Investigative Reporting Association Project Implementation Report (Georgian)
Distribution of GEL 40 thousand spent by Investigative Reporting Association (Georgian)