President Saakashvili meets National Movement party leaders, regional governors

On 27 January Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili chaired a meeting of the political council of the National Movement at the party's office in Tbilisi.

At the meeting, attended by party members and regional governors, the president ordered the governors to dismiss all local administration officials who use public funds to refurbish their own offices and purchase expensive cars.

"I invited the governors here today in order to clear up the rules of the game concerning local government bodies.

"The National Movement won a very convincing victory [in the 5 October 2006 local] elections. It would have been practically impossible to win by a larger margin. This is because the people saw that you were vigilantly pursuing the appropriate party leaders. I thank all of you and all of our voters.

"You are well aware that we are not a wealthy nation. But a number of newly elected local administration heads have been spending the majority of local budget funds on their own salaries and on overstaffing and over-equipping their own administrations without doing anything for the people.

"I also want to say that it is important to us that local administration heads, prosecutors, ministers and police have good working conditions, access to transport and decent salaries so that they not be tempted to engage in corruption. There is nothing bad about this, but when you spend 100 per cent of the budget on these things, it means that you have come to power only in order to raise your own standard of living and forget about the rest of the people.

"We are introducing a draft into parliament that would require at least half of funds allocated to regional governing bodies to be spent on social issues - repairing roads, hospitals and schools and tackling agricultural problems.

"The National Movement gets its strength from the fact that, in contrast to all parties that have come before it, it has dismissed all people in its ranks who needed to be dismissed and sent to jail all those who needed to be sent to jail without giving special consideration to anybody. All other parties suffered defeat in elections because they protected their own people even when they had committed crimes. We are doing just the opposite. This is very important for us and it is why the people support us.

"I call on members of the local councils to dismiss from their posts all administration heads who have started out their term in office by improving their own conditions and not doing anything for the people and who thought that offices are medals that we give out to people just for winning the elections.

"If we are to be a strong party, this is what we must do. Everyone must realize that, after all, we are here to serve the people. I am grateful that the majority does do this. But those who do not can go home and look after their own families.

"No-one in the ranks of the National Movement is untouchable. We are accountable for our staffs, we must defend them when they need to be defended and hold them accountable when necessary. I do not want to anyone to use the word criminal here, today I am talking about moral responsibility.

"Until he is approved by the party congress, I would like to present Davit Kirkitadze as interim general director of the National Movement. We are a strong party, a party that has done a lot and created the strongest state apparatus in this country's history. I believe that at this stage he is an acceptable candidate, though the final decision will be taken by the party. This person is maturing before our very eyes. He recently received education abroad. The more we work on ourselves and the more experience we gain, the better it will be for us and for our country.

"I want to tell the local governors that the National Movement's development programmes in the areas of education, health care, roads, tourism infrastructure must be implemented. It is the governors who are responsible for these programmes. You must exercise control over the use of every tetri [Georgian currency, about 0.59 US cents]. We will do our utmost to help you wtih this. At a time when Georgia's local self-governance system is developing, we need close political oversight so that every tetri in our not-so-rich country's budget is used for the good not of certain individuals, but rather the administration as a whole.

"I would like to praise all local administration heads who began their term on a good note, but I also want to warn those who have embarked on a negative path that no-one is guaranteed his post. If you violate the law you are guaranteed to be held accountable. So remain focused and committed and we will help you.

"We are a party that does not forgive anyone for such mistakes and violations of the law," Saakashvili said.

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of the President of Georgia

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