By Astghik Bedevian
The Armenian government has ignored strong criticism of its privatization policies to approve the sale of yet another state-owned entity without a tender and at a clearly knockdown price.
The government decided on Thursday to sell the Medical Genetics Center of the Armenian National Academy of Sciences to the daughter of a newly appointed adviser to Prime Minister Andranik Markarian for 15.2 million drams ($34 million). No reasons were given for its failure to privatize the facility on a competitive basis and thus raise a less modest sum.
The Department on State Property Management, headed by a Markarian loyalist, declined a comment on the issue. A spokeswoman said only that it “can not dispute government decisions.”
The deal was approved one week after heated parliament debates on the privatization of state-run enterprises and other assets from 2001 through 2004. Parliament speaker Artur Baghdasarian and his Orinats Yerkir Party denounced the process, saying that it lacked transparency and was riddled with corruption.
Armenia’s Office of the Prosecutor-General gave weight to the allegations, concluding in a report that the government’s privatization policies inflicted “considerable damage” on the state. Markarian and his allies, however, deny any wrongdoing.
The director and now the owner of the Medical Genetics Center, Tamara Sargsian, is the daughter of Fadey Sargsian, who was forced to resign on April 6 as chairman of the National Academy of Sciences amid corruption allegations and calls for radical reform of the moribund Soviet-era institution.
Sargsian, 83, was promptly given a new job, becoming an adviser to the Armenian premier. His daughter insisted on Friday that he played no role in her takeover of the medical facility which has an expensive building in central Yerevan and modern equipment. “Believe me, my father has nothing to do with that,” she told RFE/RL.
But Henri Nersisian, a member of the Academy of Sciences who has long accused Fadey Sargsian of large-scale corruption, thought otherwise. “They were waiting until he becomes an adviser [to the prime minister] to privatize the center,” he said.
Nersisian insisted that Tamara Sargsian enjoyed privileged treatment by her father largesse throughout his decade-long leadership of the academy, which runs virtually all scientific institutions in Armenia. “There is an institute of organic chemistry in Armenia which employs 285 people,” he said. “Their annual budget is 53.5 million drams. Tamara Sargsian’s center employs 16 people and receives 36.3 million drams, or ten times more on the per-capita basis.”
“The government doesn’t give so much money for nothing. All the funding requests were signed by her dad,” he added. “This is a classical example of corruption.”
(Photolur photo: Fadey Sargsian.)