The Armenian parliament voted on Tuesday to appoint former Energy Minister Levon Yolian as the new head of its Audit Chamber tasked with financial oversight of various government bodies.
The previous, longtime head of the chamber, Ishkhan Zakarian, resigned in early February to join a new alliance set up by businessman Gagik Tsarukian and manage its parliamentary election campaign.
Yolian worked as Zakarian’s deputy from 2013 until being named as energy minister a year ago. He was sacked in October as part of a government reshuffle initiated by President Serzh Sarkisian.
“We’ll talk about the results of my work in one year,” Yolian told reporters after being backed by 99 of the 131 members of the outgoing National Assembly.
Eduard Sharmazanov, a deputy parliament speaker and senior member of the ruling Republican Party (HHK), praised the new Audit Chamber chief as a “very composed and pragmatic professional.”
Deputies from the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun), the HHK’s junior coalition partner, also backed Yolian’s candidacy nominated by Sarkisian. One of them, Armen Rustamian, said recent amendments to the Armenian constitution gave Audit Chamber more powers and he is therefore optimistic about its ability to hold the government in check.
Levon Zurabian, the parliamentary leader of the opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK), strongly disagreed, saying that Yolian is a staunch presidential ally who will hardly investigate or expose serious abuses.
“He is a member of the government camp who will be controlling the flow of information from the Audit Chamber to the National Assembly,” Zurabian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). “I am sure that we will see much softer reports [by the chamber.]”
Zakarian angered Sarkisian in 2013 when an Audit Chamber report presented by him to lawmakers alleged widespread abuses in the administration of state procurements by several government agencies. The Armenian government strongly denied those allegations. Zakarian has kept a low profile since then.