One of the senior Armenian government officials accused by Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisian of corruption and incompetence on Friday denied any wrongdoing and insisted that his impending dismissal is unfair.
Vram Gyulzadian, a senior official at the Ministry of Agriculture, also claimed that it is Agriculture Minister Gerasim Alaverdian who has mismanaged and embezzled public funds.
Sarkisian openly demanded Gyulzadian’s sacking as he decried what he called widespread mismanagement and abuses within this and three other government ministries. He said that the Agricultural Sanitary Inspectorate headed by Gyulzadian has failed to properly inspect shops selling hazardous chemicals to farmers and to fine them for violating food safety standards.
Alaverdian promptly asked the Civil Service Council to sanction Gyulzadian’s dismissal. The council granted the request on Friday. The official, who is now on vacation, will be formally relieved of his duties immediately after returning to work on December 3.
In an interview with RFE/RL’s Armenian service, Gyulzadian rejected the allegations made against him. “I have proved, both in writing and orally, that I was not involved in that process of inspections at all, because the minister assigned that task to his deputy and the head of the licensing department,” he said. “Of course, that was my job. But the minister simply sidelined me.”
However, a spokesman for the Civil Service Council, Gor Abrahamian, insisted that Gyulzadian failed to submit “sufficient facts” supporting his innocence.
Gyulzadian also claimed that he himself fought against abuses but faced obstruction from Alaverdian. In particular, he said, the agriculture minister blocked his efforts to expose the misuse of 18 million drams ($50,000) allocated by the ministry to a private firm for eliminating locusts in the northwestern Amasia district, one of the coldest parts of Armenia.
“Clearly, they were not going to fight against locusts because you can’t fight against non-existent locusts,” Gyulzadian said, adding that the company is owned by Alaverdian’s cronies. As a result, he charged, the money was pocketed by “one or two persons.”
Gyulzadian’s claims will hardly be taken seriously by Sarkisian. The premier announced last week that he has received “radical” reform proposals from the ministers of agriculture, finance, education and health in response to his harsh criticism. He said his government must “rapidly implement those programs.”