Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian on Friday again claimed to have eliminated “systemic corruption” in Armenia while saying that Armenians expect a tougher anti-graft fight from the authorities.
“The fight against corruption, investigations into corruption-related crimes and especially the recoveries of damage caused by corruption are not unfolding on a scale which we and the public have the right to expect,” he said. “There are many objective and subjective problems here and institutional problems are not the least important of them.”
The authorities should step up that fight by creating “new institutional structures,” Pashinian told government officials and civil society representatives making up an anti-corruption advisory council headed by him. In that context, he praised an anti-graft strategy and a three-year plan of actions stemming from it drafted by the Armenian Justice Ministry in June.
Speaking at the council meeting, Justice Minister Rustam Badasian said both documents, which will be submitted to the government for approval, have been amended since then. He said they continue to call for the creation of anti-corruption courts and a special law-enforcement agency empowered to prosecute state officials suspected of bribery, fraud and other corrupt practices.
The proposed Anti-Corruption Committee would inherit most of its powers from the existing Special Investigative Service (SIS), a law-enforcement body tasked with combatting various crimes committed by state officials. A key SIS division dealing corruption and abuse of power would be incorporated into the committee.
In Badasian’s words, these and other anti-graft measures should significantly improve Armenia’s position in Transparency International’s global Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI).
Armenia ranked, together with Macedonia, Ethiopia and Vietnam, 107th out of 180 countries and territories evaluated in the 2017 CPI released shortly before last year’s “Velvet Revolution.”
The number or corruption investigations launched by Armenian law-enforcement authorities has risen significantly since the dramatic change of government. The most high-profile of these cases have targeted former top government officials and individuals linked to them.