Justice Minister Arpine Hovannisian disagreed on Tuesday with criticism of the Armenian government’s main anti-corruption body which has been voiced by the U.S. ambassador in Yerevan, Richard Mills.
The Anti-Corruption Council approved in 2015 a three-year plan of actions against various corrupt practices shortly after it was set up by then Prime Minister Hovik Abrahamian. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) pledged last year to support the program’s implementation with a $750,000 grant.
Mills revealed earlier this month that the USAID has since allocated less than 2.5 percent of that money because of a lack of “concrete progress” in the work of the anti-graft body.He said it “has not demonstrated as much progress as we had hoped.”
Hovannisian dismissed Mills’ negative assessment as “a bit exaggerated,” saying that the council currently overseen by Prime Minister Karen Karapetian has largely achieved its objectives. She argued that it has drafted a number of anti-corruption bills enacted by the Armenian authorities. Those laws have criminalized “illegal enrichment” of state officials, restricted cash transactions and expanded the circle of officials obliged to disclose their assets.
“This is why I don’t share that view, even though I do understand the concerns that were voiced,” Hovannisian told reporters. “And we are continuing our efforts in that direction.”
Karapetian, who was named prime minister in September, met with Mills last Friday to discuss his cabinet’s stated efforts to step up the fight against corruption in Armenia. In particular, the premier briefed the U.S. envoy on his plans to set up an “independent preventive anti-corruption body.”
“Pleased with the steps taken by the Government in the fight against corruption, the U.S. Ambassador welcomed the Prime Minister’s public statements and actions in this regard,” Karapetian’s press office said in a statement. Mills cautioned at the same time that “there is still much to be done in this field,” added the statement.
In his February 1 speech, Mills suggested that the government set up a “fully independent anti-corruption body that can both investigate and prosecute cases.”
Armenia ranked, together with Bolivia and Vietnam, 113th out of 176 countries evaluated in Transparency International’s most recent Corruption Perceptions Index released last month.