By Hrach Melkumian
Parliament speaker Artur Baghdasarian called Monday for greater parliamentary scrutiny of the Armenian government, saying that it is essential for scaling down rampant corruption in the country.
Baghdasarian said the oversight of activities of various government agencies should be mainly carried out through the parliament’s Oversight Chamber, a body charged with auditing the government’s revenue collection and expenditures and assessing its compliance with budget
targets. It is also responsible for evaluating the government's borrowing and privatization policies.
“Today many doors are closed for the Oversight Chamber,” the speaker said at a meeting with the agency’s staff. “We have to open them.”
Baghdasarian said the chamber should be more active in inspecting the executive and presenting their findings to the public. That, he said, would be in line with a long-awaited fight against corruption promised by the new coalition government formed this month by his Orinats Yerkir Party and two other major parties supporting President Robert Kocharian.
“We known that corruption has taken root in many government bodies,” he said.
The Oversight Chamber had repeatedly criticized the government’s use of public finances and external loans under its previous head, Ashot Tavadian. However, it lacks the legal and administrative muscle to affect government policies.
Tavadian was controversially replaced last year by Gagik Voskanian, a figure close to Prime Minister Andranik Markarian. Voskanian complained on Monday that Armenian laws do not give his agency enough powers to combat corrupt practices and should be amended.
However, his arguments were dismissed by Baghdasarian who said the oversight body has simply not been assertive and consistent enough. But he agreed that government agencies have largely failed to respond to the criticism of their work voiced by the chamber.
One of Orinats Yerkir’s two coalition partners, the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun), advocates the creation of a new government body with sweeping anti-corruption powers. The idea is reportedly opposed by Markarian’s Republican Party which has a much stronger presence in various-level government bodies. Kocharian’s opinion on the issue is not yet known.