By Gevorg Stamboltsian
The war of words between parliament speaker Artur Baghdasarian and Justice Minister David Harutiunian continued on Friday when the latter vowed to hold accountable a parliament body that accused him of misusing a 1999 World Bank loan to Armenia’s judiciary.
Harutiunian held a special news conference to repeat his vehement denial of the allegations made by the National Assembly’s Audit Chamber earlier this week. “You can’t accuse someone of corruption and not bear responsibility for that,” he said. “Rest assured that I will demand an appropriate reaction to the accusations.”
Harutiunian did not specify what specific action he will seek against the body controlled by Baghdasarian.
In an annual report submitted to lawmakers, the Audit Chamber decried the “inefficient use” of a $4.45 million share of the $11.5 million credit which was set aside for repairing and reconstructing 20 rundown court buildings across Armenia. It argued that only 11 courts have benefited from the funds.
Speaking in the parliament on Tuesday, Harutiunian claimed that his ministry was unable to refurbish the remaining court houses mainly because of a surge in the prices of construction materials. He also questioned the Chamber’s competence, saying that the report is full of factual “inaccuracies.”
Harutiunian’s comments prompted an angry response from Baghdasarian who said the minister must “learn to listen to criticism.”
Harutiunian dismissed media speculation that the public spat stems from an unfolding rivalry between the two relatively young politicians for the right to become President Robert Kocharian’s successors. But he did not explicitly deny having presidential ambitions.
“I think it’s too early to talk about presidential elections,” he said. “At this stage I intend to continue to serve as justice minister.”
(Photolur photo: David Harutiunian.)