The National Assembly voted on Tuesday to appoint the five members of a newly overhauled anti-corruption body tasked with scrutinizing income and asset declarations submitted by Armenia’s top state officials.
The Commission on Preventing Corruption is a successor to a largely ineffectual body that had been set up by the former Armenian authorities. It is empowered to not only process asset declarations but also ask law-enforcement bodies to prosecute officials suspected of engaging in corrupt practices or making false disclosures. The commission will also be able to conduct its own inquiries into possible conflicts of interest among them.
Under a relevant Armenian law, the commission will consist of five members. They were nominated by the government, the Supreme Judicial Council and the three political forces represented in the parliament.
The National Assembly appointed all five nominees in secret ballot one day after they addressed lawmakers and answered questions from them on the parliament floor.
The current Armenian government has pledged to strengthen the commission as part of an anti-corruption strategy and a three-year action plan adopted by it in October. Justice Minister Rustam Badasian said Armenian judges will be a key focus of the commission’s activities. It will be allowed to launch disciplinary proceedings against judges suspected of having dubiously acquired assets, he said.
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian confirmed, for his part, that this “integrity verification” will be a substitute for a mandatory “vetting” of all judges which he demanded in May.
The anti-graft strategy also calls for the creation in 2021 of a special law-enforcement agency that will prosecute officials suspected of bribery, fraud and other corrupt practices. The Anti-Corruption Committee (ACC) will inherit most of its powers from the existing Special Investigative Service.
Pashinian has repeatedly claimed to have eliminated “systemic corruption” in Armenia since coming to power in May 2018. During his rule, law-enforcement authorities have brought serious corruption charges against dozens of individuals, including close relatives and cronies of former President Serzh Sarkisian.