The Armenian government has still not acted on its promises to fight against endemic corruption in earnest, the country’s leading anti-graft watchdog said on Wednesday.
Varuzhan Hoktanian, the director of the Armenian affiliate of the Berlin-based group Transparency International, claimed that a new Anti-Corruption Council formed by Prime Minister Hovik Abrahamian in early 2015 has already proved ineffectual.
“In Transparency International’s view, consultative anti-corruption bodies formed by governments have not achieved tangible results anywhere in the world and Armenia is no exception,” Hoktanian told reporters. He said the government should set up instead an independent and far more powerful body if it really wants to tackle the problem.
The Anti-Corruption Council approved a three-year plan of actions when it held its first meeting in July 2015. In February this year, the U.S. Agency for International Development allocated $750,000 for the plan’s implementation.
Abrahamian said in May that his government will further step up its declared fight against corruption and improve the domestic business environment because of new security challenges facing Armenia.
Hoktanian said his Anti-Corruption Center (ACC) sees no evidence yet of any decrease in the scale of various corrupt practices in Armenia. He again singled out administration of state procurements that have long been scrutinized by the ACC.
Hoktanian claimed that various government agencies continue to routinely purchase many goods and services at disproportionately high prices from a handful of companies usually owned by government officials or their friends and relatives. The Armenian authorities should be legally banned from signing procurement contracts with such companies, he said.
Abrahamian promised stronger government action against procurement fraud in May. He said the Armenian Finance Ministry should publicize more details of contracts signed with private contractors.
Gagik Melikian, a senior lawmaker from the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK), insisted on Wednesday that the government is serious about its anti-graft drive, having done “a huge amount of work” over the past year. “The authorities have always had and will always have a political will to combat corruption and quite serious processes are underway right now,” he claimed.