Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian on Monday warned heads of local government bodies in Armenia to stop abusing their position to enrich themselves and their cronies or face prosecution.
Speaking at a conference attended by hundreds of local government officials, Pashinian complained that the mayors of many Armenian towns and villages have long owned or benefited from lucrative businesses located in their communities.
“I want to make clear that public service cannot and must not be perceived as a business activity by not only the prime minister, ministers and National Assembly deputies but also the community heads and local council members,” he said in a speech at the conference organized by the government.
“The primary and sole aim of a state official must be to multiply public, rather than personal or parochial, enrichment,” he said. “And I want us to again conclude that in the new Armenia there can be no such practices or their continuation.”
Pashinian said that his government is giving such officials a chance to “change ways in the changing reality.” “Those who don’t make use of that chance will be dealt with by law-enforcement bodies,” he warned.
Pashinian and his political team pledged to root out widespread government corruption in Armenia when they swept to power in May on a wave of mass protests commonly known as the “velvet revolution.” There has been a sharp increase in corruption investigations launched by law-enforcement authorities since then.
Town and village mayors have been one of the main targets of these inquiries. Investigators have alleged serious misuse and embezzlement of public funds in dozens of communities across the country.
Pashinian said that corrupt local officials now hope that his administration’s anti-corruption drive will lose momentum and that they will again be able to line their pockets. “Please do not have such hopes,” he told them. “There will be no return to the old ways. I mean it in the political, economic and all other senses.”
“The only thing that will happen in Armenia is the elimination of corruption and corrupt officials,” he added.
Conversely, Pashinian pledged support for those local government chiefs who will steer clear of any corrupt practices. “We will do everything to assist and stand by them and make their work more effective,” he said.