By Armen Zakarian
A comprehensive program to fight widespread corruption, promised by the Armenian government one year ago, will be ready no later than next August, a senior official said on Tuesday.
“We will present a serious anti-corruption program to the public by August,” Manuk Topuzian, a minister without portfolio managing the government staff, told RFE/RL.
Topuzian said the program is being discussed by a special government commission coordinating anti-corruption initiatives. The commission formed in February 2001 is headed by Prime Minister Andranik Markarian and comprises the key members of his cabinet.
Last May it received a $345,000 grant from the World Bank for drawing up a plan to combat bribery, nepotism and other corrupt practices that are widespread among various-level government officials. Markarian said at the time that the rampant corruption is “one of the key challenges facing the state” and vowed tough action against offenders.
Improvement of the investment climate in Armenia is one of the main goals of the stated anti-corruption drive. The government has said that a strict enforcement of the recently passed laws on civil service, licensing, financial disclosure and state procurements will make it much harder for corrupt officials to extort bribes from business people.
However, virtually no senior Armenian government official has been prosecuted on corruption charges in recent years. The state prosecutors claim to have opened 36 corruption cases last year, estimating the total damage inflicted on the state at 2.8 billion drams ($5 million). The real scale of corruption is believed to be much higher in Armenia. None of the registered cases of graft apparently involved high-ranking officials.