The Armenian government is pressing ahead with its plans to set up a special law-enforcement agency tasked with investigating corruption cases, a senior official said on Thursday.
The creation of the Anti-Corruption Committee (ACC), slated for 2021, is part of an anti-corruption strategy and a three-year action plan adopted by the government last October.
The new body will inherit most of its law-enforcement powers from the existing Special Investigative Service (SIS) which prosecutes state officials accused of various crimes. The Armenian police and other law-enforcement agencies will also cede some of their functions to the ACC.
“The Anti-Corruption Committee will investigate only new criminal cases after its creation,” said Deputy Justice Minister Srbuhi Galian. “So there will be no automatic transfers of [corruption] cases from other investigating bodies to the Anti-Corruption Committee.”
The government strategy drawn up by the Justice Ministry sets a three-year “transitional period” during which the other law-enforcement bodies will still be able to deal with corruption-related offenses.
“We should not immediately overload the newly established structure with all kinds of corruption cases and paralyze its work,” explained Galian.
The official also said that a government bill on the ACC will likely be submitted to the Armenian parliament within a month. It may undergo some changes as a result of ongoing public discussions, she added.
Such changes have already been proposed by non-governmental organizations. In particular, the Armenian affiliate of Transparency International has called for parliamentary oversight of the ACC’s activities.
“Under the government bill, the National Assembly will have no oversight functions or levers,” said Hayk Martirosian, a member of the anti-graft watchdog. “Of course, there is a problem with the constitution here. But our proposal is that this issue should be addressed given the [government] initiative to enact constitutional changes.”
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian has repeatedly claimed to have eliminated “systemic corruption” in Armenia since coming to power in May 2018. Law-enforcement authorities have launched dozens of high-profile corruption investigations during his rule.