Defense Minister Davit Tonoyan on Monday defended his decision to gradually outsource the Armenian military’s canteen services to private companies.
Armenia’s Defense Ministry has always purchased foodstuffs and delivered them to army bases where they have been cooked and served to soldiers by military personnel. Earlier this year the ministry contracted six private firms that will all army canteens within the next three years.
Four army units, all of them training centers for non-commissioned officers, already have their canteens managed by one of the private contractors. Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian visited the unit located 50 kilometers west of Yerevan and dined at its new canteen with soldiers late last week.
Tonoyan said the main purpose of the change is to improve the quality of soldiers’ food. He indicated that it is also meant to eradicate corruption in food supplies to the armed forces.
“Improving the quality of food within the framework of cooperation between the state and the private sector is the best variant,” he told reporters. “That will be obvious.”
“Time will tell whether [the new system] is more expensive or cheaper,” the minister said. “In any case, I don’t think that our soldiers must east cheaper food.”
Tonoyan acknowledged that an Armenian company that has become the first military canteen operator is owned by a friend of his. He denied any conflict of interest and expressed confidence that the company, which has until now specialized in imports of medical equipment, will be equal to the task.
“I don’t deny that the company chief is doing that at my request because I don’t have another credible option,” he said. “If he fails I will fail too.”
“As soon as the five other companies get down to business the process will move forward very fast,” added Tonoyan.