By Ruzanna Khachatrian
Speaker Tigran Torosian on Wednesday advocated a more rational spending policy, announcing that 40 jobs in the 501-member staff were cut this summer.
Two departments, two services and one secretariat of the National Assembly were abolished, which, according to Torosian, saves about 3 million drams ($7,500) every month.
“It is the structures that had nothing to do with the activities of the National Assembly,” Torosian said. “I heard no objections or disagreement from parliamentary factions, groups or commissions when I presented this decision today.”
Members of the Orinats Yerkir faction were conspicuously absent from that meeting. “It is their business to attend or not. They themselves began to link this process with their party problems. It is my belief that there should be no party problem in the National Assembly staff,” Torosian commented.
In a covert reproach to his predecessor, Orinats Yerkir leader Artur Baghdasarian, who stepped down as parliament speaker in spring after falling out with coalition partners, Torosian said he had revealed unjustified allocations of money in the parliament budget fulfillment reports.
In particular, he mentioned the allocation of 30 million drams (about $75,000) to an NGO called the Armenian-Russian inter-regional cooperation center, as well as excessive spending on films, website maintenance and statistical data for publishing books.
Torosian said he had stopped the allocation of another 10 million drams to the mentioned center. “The National Assembly is not a donor organization for NGOs. I want to stress that I do not doubt the legal aspect of the allocations, but the National Assembly cannot spend money from its budget on things not related to it.”
Torosian also stopped short of accusing anyone of intentional embezzlement of funds, leaving it for people to “judge”.
“I am not a judge or prosecutor, nor do I have any desire to give evaluations,” the parliament speaker said.
A senior member of the Republican Party of Armenia, Torosian was asked by reporters to comment on the widespread perception of criminals penetrating the party’s ranks after the latest congress in July. “It is nonsense and groundless statements, if you know any names, then give them,” Torosian rebutted.
Torosian was also asked about the party’s position on the upcoming local elections in Yerevan’s Ajapniak district that has a troubled history of past elections.
As is known, the son of Republican Party parliamentary faction leader Galust Sahakian, former vice-mayor of Yerevan Arman Sahakian is a candidate in this election slated for October 29. “Sahakian is a member of the party’s board, and leader of the party’s local chapter,” Torosian said. “It is not an ordinary election. I think the party board will address this issue in the future.”
RFE/RL’s reporter yesterday spoke to a local resident in Garni who alleged that Tigran Torosian owned 7,000 square meters of land on which he had built a hydro-power plant on the river Azat in the Garni canyon, spending some $11 million.
To this Torosian said: “I have no land and I am not building any hydro-power plant. But I think that legally constructing a hydro-power plant is a good thing.”
(Photolur photo: Tigran Torosian.)