Prime Minister Hovik Abrahamian has ordered the Armenian government to reduce “corruption risks” in its handling of state procurements which has been repeatedly criticized by the country’s leading anti-graft watchdog.
Abrahamian said the Armenian Finance Ministry should “further improve transparency in various stages of this process” as he opened a weekly session of his cabinet on Thursday. He said the ministry should post more information on a government website containing details of contracts signed with private suppliers of goods and services.
“Information disclosed in this way is a good basis for public oversight of the procurement process, but we should not confine ourselves to that,” Abrahamian told ministers.
The premier mentioned procurements on May 12 when he announced that the government will step up its fight against corruption and improve the domestic business environment because of new security challenges facing Armenia. “We need to very quickly introduce tough mechanisms that would preclude the participation of individuals holding public posts and their relatives in state procurements,” he said.
The Anti-Corruption Center (ACC), the Armenian affiliate of the Berlin-based group Transparency International, has scrutinized state procurements administered in recent years. It has found that various government agencies purchased many goods and services at disproportionately high prices from a handful of companies usually owned by government-linked individuals. According to the ACC, last year the government awarded 70 percent of its procurement contracts without any competitive tenders.
ACC activists pointed to their findings as they voiced skepticism about Abrahamian’s pledges on Friday. “I believe in facts, not promises,” one of them, Artak Manukian, told reporters.
The government already pledged to crack down on procurement fraud in 2012. President Serzh Sarkisian alleged at the time 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.