New Report on IDP Cottages Looks at Transparency in Aid and Construction

28 Apr, 2010

Transparency International Georgia issued a new report that assesses the quality of construction of the cottages that were built for IDPs displaced in August 2008. The report presentation event took place on April 27 in the Courtyard by Marriott Hotel. The report was prepared in the framework of the Open Society Georgia-Foundation funded coalition “Transparent Foreign Aid To Georgia”.

“The coalition “Transparent Aid to Georgia” was established after the August war in 2008 and unites 7 non-governmental organizations.  The coalition has been monitoring allocation of foreign aid pledged by donors’ community in the aftermath of the war to target infrastructural and energy projects and IDP housing.  The report is a part of this initiative” -Keti Khutsishvili, the Executive Director of Open Society Georgia Foundation says.

The report finds that the main problems in construction quality that persist today, and which continue to negatively affect the lives of IDPs, are due to a poor architectural plan that was drafted behind closed doors without broader consultation or expertise.

“The cottages were constructed in the post-war period and the mindset at that time was focused on providing emergency shelter, rather than long-term, durable shelter. Some aspects of the planning process did attempt to address the long-term needs of IDPs, such as identifying land plots with the recognition that many IDPs came from subsistence agricultural backgrounds. But the architectural design of the cottages was done so quickly and with so little planning that the final result is something in between emergency and durable shelter,” said Vakhtang Kobaladze, TI Georgia’s Executive Director. “The problems with the mold and damp could have been foreseen by a planning process that included a wider number of experts.”

Independent engineers who assessed the cottages for TI Georgia found that the structural integrity of the cottages is sound and they are expected to remain standing for many years, albeit with continuing mold and damp problems.

The report also assessed the procurement monitoring systems of the Municipal Development Fund (MDF) and Mtskheta municipality, both of which managed separate sets of contracts with construction companies. The report finds that although the MDF’s system for monitoring construction work is generally well-documented and allows independent parties to verify the process, the inconsistent and sometimes inaccurate method used to document cottage defects and verify that they were repaired erodes the agency’s ability to hold construction companies responsible for problems in quality of construction. And while MDF employed supervisory engineers to monitor each construction contract, there was no final, independent assessment of the construction quality.

Mtskheta municipality’s procurement monitoring also lacked independence: the commission responsible for reviewing the cottage quality was made up of MDF and the monitoring company it hired. In addition, the documentation and repair of defects appears to have been conducted on an ad hoc basis and with a less rigorous, comprehensive approach to addressing the problems caused by construction companies. The World Bank and European Commission have also not made their independent audits of the construction costs public.

The report concludes by noting that information asymmetries in the field of construction and engineering pose significant challenges to achieving accountability and enabling effective citizen oversight. This highlights the need for better communication by the Ministry of Refugees and Accommodation to IDPs about these processes, including publication of architectural plans and full transparency of construction company contracts and budgets. The report emphasizes that such communication can be simple and inexpensive.