Armenia’s current decentralized model of fighting corruption has some drawbacks, which consist in the lack of institutional and functional independence, the country’s Minister of Justice Arpine Hovannisian said during a government session on Thursday.
Upon Prime Minister Hovik Abrahamian’s instruction, the minister presented details of the discussions of the Anti-Corruption Council held on June 15 and June 17 as well as the fulfillment of the assignments given in this regard.
“The legal basis of the activities of anti-corruption bodies in many cases is sub-legislative, the work of some anti-corruption agencies, such as the Anti-Corruption Council, does not have a permanent nature, no sufficient guarantees are provided to the Commission on the Ethics of High-Ranking Officials to ensure its functional and institutional independence. Given the current problems, we believe that there is a need for the introduction of a universal model or a drastic revision of the decentralized model,” stated the minister, noting that in case of the prime minister’s instruction, within a short time they will sum up their work and submit to the Anti-Corruption Council equally efficient models.
Hovannisian also spoke about efforts on identifying real owners of businesses, in particular when it comes to state purchases, which local and international anti-graft watchdogs believe are a major source of government corruption in Armenia.
“The organizations that wish to participate in the public procurement process must disclose their real owners. And this disclosure should be made at the level of individuals, not only at the level of companies with corresponding stocks,” the minister said.
Another recommendation, according to the official, concerns so-called illegal enrichment. “If an official has a significant increase in assets and income and cannot substantiate it as it is inconsistent with his or her lawful earnings, competent authorities may demand justification for that. If an official cannot explain this discrepancy, he or she will be held liable,” said the minister, adding that after numerous discussions with specialists on whether this would be a violation of the presumption of innocence, the ministry has arrived at the conclusion that this provision would not have any problems with this principle. “Simply, the law will require that an official should justify his or her expenses or the imbalance between an increase in expenses and assets and legal earnings,” she added.
According to Hovannisian, the package itself is not enough to resolve all the problems connected with illegal enrichment and other settings are also required. “This is what our next package is aimed at. In the case of illegal enrichment persons may enter into fraudulent loan transactions and thus legalize their illegal incomes or property. In this regard, we believe, a legislative package related to limiting cash transactions will be an effective safeguard,” said the minister. “I think that this and a number of other steps… will allow us to wage a more effective fight against corruption.”