On February 19 the Armenian Government approved the bill to set up an anti-corruption council and expert group proposed by Minister of Justice Hovhannes Manukyan. The Minister of Finance, the Chief of Government Staff – Minister, as well as MPs from the opposition factions and NGO sector representatives will be involved in it.
Experts and the opposition, however, do not have high hopes for the new anti-corruption institution to operate effectively. They recall the activities of the anti-corruption agency established in 2004 which “failed to emerge with its efficiency.”
The Media Center held a panel discussion on the law of the establishment of a new anti-corruption council. The discussion featured the efficiency of anti-corruption tools and necessity of establishment of a new anti-corruption council. The panelists included: Varuzhan Hoktanyan, head of the Transparency Anti-Corruption Center; Tevan Poghosyan, MP, Heritage Faction; and Marat Atovmyan, head of Yerevan Anti-Corruption Center, member of Young Lawyers’ Association.
It is an attempt to establish an institutional basis for the anti-corruption campaign, Varuzhan Hoktanyan believes. “The anti-corruption council will include expert and monitoring groups. Actually, it is an attempt to get an institutional basis but the problem is that the council will serve only in an advisory capacity and can barely eradicate corruption,” he said.
Armenian Public Sector ranked 36 in the 2013 Corruption Perceptions Index ("0" on the table means that the public sector of the given country is highly corrupt, while "100" shows that the country is absolutely transparent) which means corruption is systematic in Armenia. “A system cannot, in fact, work without corruption,” Hoktanyan said and added the problem is the lack of political will.
“The anti-corruption campaigns in Singapore, South Korea, Hong Kong, etc. were not an end in itself. The countries combated corruption as an obstacle to the economic growth and, thus, succeeded,” Hoktanyan said. It is useless to speak about the efficiency of the combat unless Armenia has a well-developed anti-corruption concept, for example, the transformation of the oligarchic economic model, he added.
Tevan Poghosyan recalled the previous attempts of forming anti-corruption institutions in Armenia. “We have had such council, and the first attempt was made back in 2003 when the term anti-corruption as such was first used in Armenia…the anti-corruption strategies, however, have so far lacked coordination and institutional basis. Two elements have been added but it is still unknown what relations and activities the council will have.” Poghosyan said he could not speak on the viewpoint of the Heritage Faction since the question was not discussed in the faction.
The council is not an administrative structure, Poghosyan believes, and the Government may solve job creation issue, as well as imitate to be addressing its recent international obligations.
Marat Atovmyan noted it is useless to establish anti-corruption institutions in Armenia since “they have proved inefficient.”
The government at this time, according to Marat Atomyan, considers this model more effective. “The Government thinks: “Let the council work for a few years, then we'll see if it does not justify itself, they will search for a new solution. But we must not waste time and hold experiments instead of more professional discussions. It is meaningless to form such agencies, as practice shows they do not work to take real steps towards eradicating corruption. The anti-corruption council must be independent, as the Human Rights Defender's Office,” he concluded.
The speakers agreed that the systematic approach to the problem and political will may lead to a considerable shift in combating corruption.
Arshaluys Mghdesyan, Editor-Coordinator