RPA And NA Centers Of Political Corruption

RPA And NA Centers Of Political Corruption
Interview with Sona Ayvazyan, Chairwoman of Transparency International Anti-Corruption Center


How come members of parliament accumulate so much wealth with their low salaries?


  We know that the parliament is composed of businessmen who are rich and their presence there completely guarantees their immunity. I mean they are not held responsible, though the RoA Constitution stipulates that a member of parliament cannot engage in business activities. Most probably, they don’t pay taxes so they get richer.


Do they get richer after entering parliament?


  Since everything has become more transparent only now, we have no data from previous years relating to some parliamentarians and we cannot compare. It will be possible to say in a few years.


Do the NA activities help parliamentarians avoid taxes?


  They get political levers, they get the possibility to influence adoption of laws which secure their business. This is a kind of political corruption.


According to our research, the richest members of parliament are Republicans except the PAP leader Gagik Tsarukyan. 


  The Republican Party seems to be a union of businesses, it can hardly be considered a party, it is criminal group which has appeared in the NA and is now forming a political agenda based on the interests of a handful of people.


MPs submit annual property declarations to the Ethics Commission. Are their declarations sincere?


  We can’t know that. Only investigative journalists can. But it will be difficult anyway because it is confidential: the names of relatives of high-ranking officials feature in registration documents of their property. The relatives of MPs do not have to submit declarations of property, so they are not held responsible.


Are there no supervision mechanisms?


  First, the Ethics Commission’s mandate is technical and it does not study data. They don’t check whether the property of a certain figure could be obtained on their salaries. Several years ago we requested the relevant bodies to study Tigran Arzaqantsyan’s case since he has shares in some companies. Relevant bodies affirmed that if a person is not a CEO, he or she cannot be considered involved in a business. But it is their interpretation.


Has any MP been held responsible for doing business?


  No. When investigative articles appear, we turn to the Ethics Commission but, as a rule, the law enforcement bodies see no corpus delicti. They don’t fulfill their duties, they sponsor them.


Many declare their properties as real estate, and very often, it is impossible to find out their real value. Do you think they conceal anything?


  The full declarations and the published parts are different. The data are not fully published as this data is confidential, so some important figures are left out, such as the series of cars, the annual turnover etc. But this is a legislative gap.


What solutions do you propose?


  First, the legislation gaps need to be eliminated. The ethics commission of high ranking officials should not be adjunct to the president. Illegal enrichment is not penalized. Armenia has signed the UN convention on fight against corruption but has signed the provision on illegal enrichment with reservations. People should be held responsible for illegal enrichment. –


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