The Armenian government has sharply cut corruption risks in the administration of state procurements criticized by anti-graft watchdogs, a senior Finance Ministry official claimed on Friday.
“We have enacted the kind of legislation that would preclude or at least minimize such practices,” said Sergey Shahnazarian, the head of a ministry division overseeing procurements by various government agencies.
“For that purpose a new system was designed and introduced,” he told a news conference. “In my view, it seriously complicates, if not prevents, the manifestations mentioned by you.”
Shahnazarian cited a government-drafted law that came in force in April. It is meant to make the procurement process much more transparent and prevent conflicts of interests among officials dealing with such purchases. If those officials have relatives among private supplies bidding for government contracts they must formally acknowledge that fact.
“We now also publicize data on the real owners [of government contractors,]” said Shahnazarian. “The information is public. You can see who holds more than 10 percent stakes in which companies.”
Prime Minister Karen Karapetian publicly questioned the integrity of the process just days after taking office in September. He specifically decried “primitive theft” of budgetary funds set aside for government officials’ travel expenses.
Varuzhan Hoktanian, the program director at the Anti-Corruption Center (ACC), the Armenian affiliate of Transparency International, acknowledged that the new law provides for greater transparency in procurement administration. But he said that it alone will not solve the problem.
“When there is no will to expedite clean processes, including in the area of procurements, primitive theft will be placed by more sophisticated theft,” Hoktanian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).
The ACC has repeatedly charged in recent years that various government agencies purchased many goods and services at disproportionately high prices from a handful of companies usually owned by government-linked individuals. According to it, the government awarded 70 percent of its procurement contracts without any competitive tenders in 2015.