A parliamentary oversight body alleged widespread corruption in the administration of state procurements in Armenia on Thursday, saying that it has resulted in a massive loss of public funds.
The Audit Chamber decried the allegedly corrupt practices as it presented the National Assembly with its annual report on financial inspections of various government agencies.
“Very often [procurement] tenders are organized under scenarios agreed beforehand,” the head of the chamber, Ishkhan Zakarian, told lawmakers. “We even have cases where a company took part in bidding … won a contract to supply some goods, and it then emerged that those goods were imported by it three, four or five months ago. So it knew in advance that it will win the tender.”
As a result, claimed Zakarian, the cost of procurements has been grossly inflated. The official singled out construction work commissioned by a Justice Ministry structure as part of a project to upgrade Armenian court facilities.
Zakarian showed a piece of telephone cable used in the construction to back up his claims. “One meter of this cable costs 110 drams (25 U.S. cents) in shops,” he said. “In the [procurement] records the price of this same cable was 1,007 drams [per meter.]”
The allegations prompted serious concern from parliament speaker Hovik Abrahamian. “Some people are gobbling up budgetary funds and we are doing nothing about that,” Abrahamian said, adding, “I am simply amazed and think that the prime minister must take serious steps.”
The Armenian authorities already moved to ensure the integrity of the procurement process following similar allegations that were made by President Serzh Sarkisian during a cabinet meeting in September 2012. Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisian and other officials afterwards alleged serious abuses in government-funded construction, purchases of government-subsidized medication as well as food supplies to state-run kindergartens and orphanages. Several senior government officials were sacked as a result.
Justice Minister Hrayr Tovmasian appeared to downplay the Audit Chamber claims, saying that only law-enforcement bodies and courts can prove whether they are substantiated. He said the Armenian police received the chamber’s findings about three months ago but have not launched criminal proceedings yet.
Zakarian told the National Assembly that he believes a criminal case will be opened “in the near future.”