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GRR: Georgian Rapacious Road21.01.2011 | 17:38
Management of the Georgian railroad seems to be asking for a prosecutor's inspection. According to the Labourites, the management has obtained bonuses for themselves exceeding the salary of common employees thousand times. Monthly payments at the various levels of the corporate ladder of this state monopoly also differ hundreds of times. But Mikheil Saakashvili takes no control over the railroad corruption, so long as head of the GRR Irakly Eguzbaya supports the current regime at the elections, as Conservative Bidzina Gujabidze explained to GeorgiaTimes.
The Georgian party which is most lavish in accusatory statements, the Labourites, is accusing the Georgian railroad management of corruption. However, high salaries of the top managers of this state enterprise could rather be attributed to the phenomenon of social stratification rather than to bribery.
According to one of the leaders of the party Soso Shatberashvili, company head Irakly Eguzbaya and his associated have had a splendid time last holidays. "The railway director gets a salary of 15-17 thousand laris, while his deputy gets 15 thousand laris. Moreover, they obtained bonuses of 200 thousand laris for themselves before the New Year. We are asking the general prosecutor's office to start an investigation", - the Labourite called.
Shatberashvili underlined that the situation in GRR invalids all the boastful speeches delivered by Mikheil Saakashvili on corruption elimination.
"What are you talking about? What bonuses for management do you mean? Our primary concern is the bottom-level personnel", - Labourites were told in GRR. According to company representative Nino Chkhaidze, engine drivers, conductors, trainmen and other employees are given bonuses equal to 25 salaries.
7-10 thousand laris as a thirteenth salary is a real sensation for a common citizen of Georgia, for the employees may only dream of such generosity from managers. The strange thing is that Eguzbaya's social initiatives came into the light only after he was accused. Well, modesty is a very good quality for rosy-cheeked young girls, not the entrepreneurial directors.
As to Irakly Eguzbaya's business acumen, there is no doubt of it. Three years ago, Conservatives demanded opening a criminal case against him. Their accusations were based on the evidence of Georgy Kruashvili dismissed from GRR. A father of five children and former safe railway operation inspector, he was fired in 2006. A naïve supporter of the United National Movement, he sent a letter to the president describing the facts of railway corruption. Kruashvili was removed, while everyone he mentioned remained in office.
Revelations of the Conservatives and the railway employee who suffered for justice concerned not only Irakly Eguzbaya but also former Prime Minister Zurab Nogaideli, former Minister of Economy Georgy Arveladze and family clans of other members of the party in power. They sent complaints to the new Prosecutor General Eka Tkeshelashvili but soon realized that everything was in vain. Eka's husband Georgy Alexishvili, former accountant of the Opera Theatre, was unexpectedly appointed financial advisor to director general for Georgian Railroad LLC with a salary of five thousand laris. Kruashvili estimated it as a bribe to the prosecutor but could not prove anything.
Gujabidze declared that the railway was unprofitable for the state because it was a source of income for corruptors. The Conservative believes that nothing has changed over the years.
- There's high-level corruption there, - Bidzina Gujabidze underlined in his talk to GeorgiaTimes. - The salaries that the Labourites are talking about were as unfair two years ago. I mentioned it both in parliament and at the prosecutor's office but no one paid attention to my words. It's just that Eguzbaya supports Saakashvili. In the year of elections, Eguzbaya brought him 80 million laris for the pre-election campaign.
- How much do common employees get? Do they voice any discontent?
- 200-300 laris per month, while an average salary is nearly 1200 laris. They feel protest but the conditions are dictated by Ezugbaya and the officers from Vano Merabishvili's administration, KGB, as it was called earlier. There are such agents at every enterprise dealing with such big money. Anyone expressing protest is dismissed or put in jail.
- And what about the transportation rates?
- These rates are very high. There is passenger and goods traffic. For people, these are very high rates, while goods are transported on a contractual basis. They've got a large space for corruption as well; they fix kickbacks and then divide them.
Armenians suffer most in the Georgian transport routes because of corruption. They've got no opportunity to trade with other countries without crossing Georgia, for Armenia has got strained relationship with Azerbaijan and Turkey. Expert of one of the largest Armenian oil traders, Flesh, Musheg Elvhyan has declared after the Rose Revolution that there were no changes in GRR's corruption traditions, though Saakashvili demonstratively punished Eguzbaya's predecessor Akaky Chkhaidze through court.