Prime Minister Hovik Abrahamian accused on Thursday a Spanish construction company engaged in multimillion-dollar roadworks in Armenia of mismanagement and possible fraud.
Abrahamian also publicly lambasted the Armenian Ministry of Transport and Communications for failing to properly oversee the implementation of contracts signed with the company, Corsan Corvian Construccion, in 2012.
Corsan was contracted to expand and repave more than 90 kilometers of roads as part of a $1.5 billion government project to upgrade Armenia’s highways stretching to neighboring Georgia and Iran. The government has so far mainly financed the ambitious project from a $500 million allocated to it by the Asian Development Bank (ABA).
The first two newly reconstructed highways connecting Yerevan to the towns of Ararat and Ashtarak were officially inaugurated last December. The total length of the roads, which cost the government $70 million, is about 50 kilometers.
Work on the remaining 40 kilometers assigned to Corsan has fallen well behind the schedule for unclear reasons.
Abrahamian decried the delay, demanding an explanation from Deputy Transport Minister Artur Arakelian during a weekly session of his cabinet. “I have warned you before,” he said. “What is the reason for that?”
“Mr. Prime Minister, we do monitor the process in terms of the time frames,” replied Arakelian. “The builder has a very clear timetable for the roadworks. We have no complaints yet in that regard. So things are going according to plan.”
“Isn’t what I’m saying a complaint for you?” shot back Abrahamian.
“That Spanish company has messed up this project,” he charged, citing claims made by Corsan’s unnamed employees and partners in Armenia.
The premier also claimed that the quality of the Yerevan-Artashat road is not as good as it should have been. Arakelian told reporters after the cabinet meeting that his ministry has withheld $6 million in funding from Corsan because of that. He also accused the Spanish firm of failing to pay its contractors in Armenia on time.
Artak Barseghian, a senior executive at the ADB office in Yerevan, also criticized the implementation of the highway project. “We are also unhappy,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). “The work is going very slowly.”