Prime Minister Hovik Abrahamian has insisted that his government bears no responsibility for alleged corruption in Armenia’s troubled power distribution network which was widely blamed for a recent rise in the electricity prices in the country.
The more than 17 percent price hike triggered two-week street demonstrations in Yerevan that forced the government to subsidize the energy tariffs for households.
Young civic activists leading the “Electric Yerevan” movement dismissed state regulators’ assurances that the unpopular measure is needed for ending massive losses incurred by the Electric Networks of Armenia (ENA), the national power utility. They believe that those losses result from a widespread embezzlement of ENA funds allegedly condone and even overseen by the Russian-owned company’s management.
“Is there corruption in the ENA?” Abrahamian said late on Monday. “It’s a Russian company. Let it be audited. If corruption is detected, then those responsible for it will be held accountable. That has nothing to do with the Armenian authorities.”
Critics have accused the authorities of turning a blind eye to the ENA’s mismanagement. They also see close ties between senior ENA executives and high-ranking Armenian government officials.
Abrahamian urged “Electric Yerevan” leaders to take part in an upcoming special audit of the ENA meant to determine whether the company is indeed mismanaged. “It would be good if those people who took to the streets and demanded justice participated [in the audit.] If that was the reason for staying on the street, then they must participate,” he told reporters during a visit to a pro-government youth camp in the resort town of Tsaghkadzor.
It remains unclear, however, when that audit will get underway and which foreign company will conduct it. Abrahamian said last week that the government is still discussing the matter with “the Russian side.”
Artak Manukian, an economist monitoring the Armenian energy sector, deplored on Tuesday a lack of official information about those discussions. He also complained that the government has not even clarified whether the audit will probe the corruption allegations or merely scrutinize the ENA’s balance sheets.