Under a relevant bill passed by the National Assembly, any single expenditure exceeding 2 million drams ($4,100) must be declared to the Commission on Prevention of Corruption. That includes money spent on leisure, debt repayment or the purchase of real estate, cars or other expensive items.
The state commission has until now scrutinized only income and asset declarations filed by senior government officials, parliamentarians, judges as well as their family members. It can ask law-enforcement bodies to prosecute individuals suspected of making false disclosures. It can also conduct its own inquiries into possible conflicts of interest.
The bill will extend the asset declaration requirement to local government officials and members of the municipal councils of Yerevan and most other urban communities. In addition, it requires the officials in question to also disclose properties and cars which they use but do not formally own.
Presenting the bill to lawmakers on Thursday, Justice Minister Rustam Badasian described the tougher financial disclosure rules as an additional safeguard against corruption in Armenia.
The bill was approved by 101 votes to 17. Voting against it were deputies from the opposition Bright Armenia Party (LHK).
The Armenpress news agency quoted one of them, Taron Simonian, as saying that the LHK supports the measure in principle and will back its passage in the second reading if the government accepts amendments drafted by his party.
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian has repeatedly claimed to have eliminated “systemic corruption” after coming to power in the 2018 “Velvet Revolution.” The number of corruption cases brought by Armenian law-enforcement authorities has risen sharply since the dramatic change of government. The most high-profile cases have involved former top government officials and individuals linked to them.
Nevertheless, Pashinian said in February that he is not satisfied with the results of the corruption investigations. He said law-enforcement bodies must do more to recover “funds stolen from the state.”
In April, Pashinian’s government pushed through the parliament a controversial bill that allows prosecutors to investigate individuals suspected of having assets the market value of which exceeds their “legal incomes” by at least 50 million drams ($103,000). The prosecutors can ask courts to nationalize those assets if they find such discrepancies.
Earlier this month, the Office of the Prosecutor-General set up a special division tasked with handling possible asset seizures.