Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisian accused an Armenian parliamentary oversight body on Thursday of grossly exaggerating possible misuse or waste of public funds by his government for political purposes.
Sarkisian said the Audit Chamber presented his cabinet and the National Assembly with different reports on its financial inspections of various government agencies.
The head of the chamber, Ishkhan Zakarian, alleged widespread corruption in the administration of public procurements when he addressed the parliament earlier this month. The allegations were picked up by not only opposition deputies but also some of their pro-government colleagues, notably speaker Hovik Abrahamian. The latter is thought to have an uneasy rapport with Sarkisian.
“The Audit Chamber has no right to make political statements,” the prime minister told a weekly session of his cabinet. “The Audit Chamber is obliged to present only professional conclusions. Making political evaluations is the function of the government and the National Assembly.”
“In this very room, we heard ministers’ reports on the materials submitted by the Audit Chamber and thanked the Audit Chamber for our joint work,” he said. “But what happened in the National Assembly had nothing to do with the materials that were at the center of the government’s attention. And the statement [by Zakarian] that 70 percent of the state budget is spent in an extremely risky and corrupt fashion applies to all of you sitting in this room.”
“I demand that no accusation addressed to you remain unanswered,” continued Sarkisian. “You must respond to those accusations by either refuting them or presenting those materials to the prosecutor’s office or publicly stating that those accusations are true.”
Zakarian rebutted the premier’s public attack in a written statement sent to RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). “The report is on your table,” he said. “Please show me where the phrase ‘widespread plunder’ is used and what political evaluations we made. There is no such thing, and I think that after using some terms some people are trying to correct them. This is not fair.”
Zakarian told lawmakers that the alleged abuses caused the state budget damage worth up to several million dollars. As he presented the Audit Chamber’s report the official faced embarrassing questions from an opposition deputy about his luxury mansion in Yerevan.