By Shakeh Avoyan
Armenia’s state procurements agency has acquired 15 billion drams ($26.5 million) worth of goods and services this year or about 50 percent more than in 2002, its director Gagik Khachatrian announced on Tuesday. But he admitted that more than 80 percent of purchases financed from the government’s budget were still beyond the agency’s reach.
Under an Armenian law effective since 2000, any purchase of equipment or other supplies to various government bodies worth more than $500 is to be carried out through competitive tenders administered by the newly created agency. The amount of such procurements has gone up sharply since 2001 when it was reported to be only 5.5 billion drams.
Khachatrian said that has allowed the government to save an average of 500 million drams annually. But he complained that his agency has no jurisdiction over budgetary procurements financed from external sources that assist Armenian on certain conditions. They are estimated to total at least 40 billion drams in the 2003 budget.
A comparable sum is budgeted for items commissioned by the military and other agencies dealing with national security. They themselves choose their suppliers.
Other government ministries and departments can only make “urgent” purchases if they want to bypass the procurements procedure. Khachatrian could not explain in this regard the acquisition of very expensive cars by a number of senior Armenian officials that was reported by the media in the course of 2003. Among those whose limousines appeared on newspaper front-pages were Prime Minister Andranik Markarian, Finance and Economy Minister Vartan Khachatrian and Central Bank Chairman Tigran Sarkisian.
“I don’t think that those cars were bought with budgetary funds,” Khachatrian said. He declined to name other possible sources.