Saakashvili spent 1.5m GEL on travel costs in 2013

IDFI claims Saakashvili's traveling expenses for last year were "irrational.", 29 May 2014 - 14:50, Tbilisi,Georgia

Georgia’s former president racked up 1.5 million GEL travel expenses on overseas business trips in 2013 and was found to have spent vast amounts of public money unnecessarily, a Georgian non-governmental organisation claims.

Latest figures released today by the Institute for Development of Freedom of Information (IDFI) showed ex-president Mikheil Saakashvili and current President Giorgi Margvelashvili went on 128 business trips last year.

In total, the leaders spent just over 1.8 million GEL on official visits last year. Of this amount, 1.5 million GEL was spent by Saakashvili (82 percent) and about 330,500 GEL was spent by incoming President Margvelashvili.

According to the data, while in power Saakashvili spent 112 calendar days on official overseas business. On each trip he was supplemented with a daily allowance however the ex-president used additional state funding to cover the cost of his overseas expenses.

"Expenses for business trips of public officials are determined in Georgia in accordance with each country. For example the daily allowance for Singapore is 64 Singapore Dollars, for Greece [it is] 29 Euros, for Austria [it is] 46 Euro, etcetera,” read the IDFI report.

"Besides that, high-ranking officials, such as the President, can supplement their daily allowance with the equivalent of $300 USD [per day].”

The data revealed Saakashvili used three times the usual amount - $900 USD of state money – to supplement his daily allowance during most of his business trips in 2013. Some of his trips were extremely expensive, including trips to Greece, Austria, the United Arab Emirates, Singapore, the United States and Italy.

IDFI said in 2013, Saakashvili used a daily allowance for 106 days, which was equivalent to about $5,300 USD. This was not enough for Saakashvili and he supplemented his allowance by about $82,000 USD. In total he spent $87,500 USD for 106 days abroad.

A statement by IDFI said the amount Saakashvili supplemented to his daily allowance was "not a small amount”.

"Despite this fact, the daily consumption money is not taxed and will not appear in the property declaration. In addition, it is being issued on the hand. All of this raises questions about the effectiveness and meaningful disposal of the state budget and the transparency of the revenue of officials,” IDFI said.

Questions were also raised whether money spent on hotel expenses was appropriate or not.

In 2013, the total amount paid for hotels during Saakashvili’s trips abroad reached $362,000 USD. Of this, the largest sum – $433,00 USD – was spent on a nine-day trip to the US.

IDFI figures showed in addition to the standard price of his hotel room, Saakashvili had to fork out extra funds for unforeseen expenses, such as a late check-out from the hotel.

During his two day stay at the luxury Enchantment Resort in Sedona, Arizona, Saakashvili spent almost 5 times more than anticipated. The cost of his hotel room was $2,328.94 USD but $9,899.35 USD in unexpected costs saw his total bill spike to $12,228.35 USD.

After analyzing the information, IDFI concluded the former government was "irrational” in terms of the president’s overseas travel budget in 2013.

IDFI said government funds were not spent reasonably and in many occasions it was possible to save money without refusing services to the president.

"In addition, the fact that despite a large amount of travelling allowances, the money was not considered as income for [the president and this] needs special attention. It is necessary that spending of any state fund by a Government official is targeted and transparent,” read the statement.