By Nane Atshemian
The head of an Armenian agency handling state procurements admitted on Wednesday that the prices of goods and equipment supplied to various government agencies as a result of official tenders are not necessarily the lowest ones.
Gagik Khachatrian said many local firms that could charge the government less avoid taking in part in the supposedly competitive biddings. “I don’t know why,” he said. “We should clarify that.”
President Robert Kocharian mentioned the problem when he met with Armenia’s leading businesspeople in late December. Most of them, he acknowledged, do not even attempt to win government contracts because they do not trust the integrity of the process guaranteed by an Armenian law on procurements.
The law, in force since 2000, stipulates that a single purchase of equipment or other supplies to various government bodies worth more than $500 must be carried out such through a tender. Its was meant to prevent bribery and favoritism in the selection of government suppliers.
Khachatrian claimed that his agency is doing its best to rule out corruption and ensure a level playing field for all bidders. He said it administered 26.5 billion drams ($56 million) worth of procurements -- mostly drugs, medical equipment, fuel and office stationery -- in about 400 tenders last year, or 60 percent more than in 2003. Their total volume will reach 40 billion drams this year, he said.
However, that would still be well below the total sum spent by the government on such purchases every year.