The Armenian government has saved about 7 billion drams ($19 million) in public funds in an ongoing revision of the lists of individuals receiving pensions and other social benefits, Labor and Social Affairs Minister Artur Grigorian said on Monday.
Grigorian’s ministry began the revision in January after the Armenian parliament’s Audit Chamber found what it described as widespread fraud in the payment of those benefits.
In particular, the chamber said thousands of Armenian pensioners have received, on paper, pensions years after their death. It implicitly claimed that that this money was pocketed by officials from the state pension fund subordinate to the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs. The head of the fund, Vazgen Khachikian, was dismissed in December.
The Office of the Prosecutor-General found these claims credible in May, assigning the Armenian police to open a criminal case. A police spokesman told RFE/RL’s Armenian service that investigators have still not arrested or charged anyone.
According to Grigorian, the ministry has looked into the personal files of more than 30,000 pensioners. “We have found quite a few errors in our registry of pensioners,” he said.
“There were cases where pensioners’ names and surnames didn’t match social security card numbers or passport numbers,” Grigorian told a news conference.
The minister added that the elimination of those inaccuracies prevented a waste of about 4 billion drams by the State Social Security Service. Another 2.7 billion drams was saved through the correction of the national registry of families eligible for poverty benefits, he said.
Grigorian also made clear that he is unlikely to refer those violations to law-enforcement authorities, suggesting that they were not the result of any criminal intent. “At this point the verifications conducted by us probably give us no grounds to file reports to law-enforcement bodies,” he said.
The prosecutors said in May that State Social Security Service officials rigged documents and committed other fraud “for personal gain” and “in group interests.” They did not name any of those officials, however.