More than 100 employees of the Finance Ministry have reportedly been laid off as a result of its recent controversial merger with the Armenian government’s tax collection agency.
The State Revenue Committee (SRC) was merged with the ministry in late April after Gagik Khachatrian, the SRC chief, was appointed as finance minister. The promotion made Khachatrian, who has long been a target of corruption allegations by the opposition and media, one of Armenia’s most powerful officials.
Media reports said this week that around 120 ministry staff have been fired because of the restructuring criticized by the Armenian opposition. Several of them confirmed this in conversations with RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). But only one employee, Meri Avagian, agreed to go on record.
Avagian has worked at the Finance Ministry’s press office for the past nine years. She said it has been disbanded and its functions will now be performed by SRC spokespersons handpicked by Khachatrian. She said she believes the dismissals violated Armenia’s labor legislation and a law on civil service in particular.
The layoffs were also said to have affected the ministry’s legal department as well as its Financial Oversight Inspectorate. The latter division has been tasked with monitoring the use of budgetary funds by various government agencies. It claimed to have uncovered financial abuses within the SRC last year.
In the words of Ara Galoyan, an economics analyst and writer, Khachatrian has dissolved the Financial Oversight Inspectorate altogether. “The best way to end headache is to chop off the head,” Galoyan said with sarcasm. “The inspectorate is being disbanded and the authorities will not face such ugly facts anymore.”
The Finance Ministry did not deny the reported layoffs but refrained from commenting on them on Friday.