The Armenian government claimed on Thursday to be making progress in tackling what President Serzh Sarkisian described last year as widespread bribery and nepotism in public procurements administered by various government agencies.
Sarkisian famously berated the government at a cabinet meeting in September 2012, citing the findings of an inquiry conducted by the presidential Oversight Service. The latter claimed that procurement contracts are routinely awarded to private firms in violation of an Armenian law that was adopted in late 2010 to prevent corrupt practices and lower the cost of goods and services commissioned by the government.
Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisian subsequently acknowledged 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.
“Since that meeting we have done quite a lot of work,” Tigran Sarkisian told ministers on Thursday. “Numerous decisions have been made, instructions have been given, and employees of various agencies have been retrained.”
“Now is the time to give answers, and from now on we will be extremely strict with regard to any violation,” he said.
According to Sarkisian, a Finance Ministry department overseeing the use of budgetary funds has monitored expenditures in various sectors. The results of that monitoring will be discussed in detail during upcoming cabinet meetings, he said. The premier did not clarify whether any serious abuses have been detected. He said only that the department must be quick to alert law-enforcement authorities about such violations.
The problem of procurement fraud came under renewed spotlight last month following the publication of a report by the Audit Chamber subordinate to the Armenian parliament. The reported alleged continuing abuses in the administration of procurements.
Ishkhan Zakarian, the Audit Chamber chairman, declared that misuse or waste of public funds seems to be the norm. Both Tigran Sarkisian and President Sarkisian rejected that claim.