Word Congress of Public Councils

From June 25 to 28, 2014 World Congress of Public Councils was held in Bucharest. RA Public Council president Vazgen Manukyan and RA Public Council members Hovik Musayelyan and Rouben Safrastyan participated in the forum.

Hovik Musayelyan delivered speech as a member of the Armenian delegation (please see the speech below).

Dear Chairman,
Dear summit participants,

On behalf of the delegation of the Public Council of the Republic of Armenia, let me greet the summit participants and wish productive work.

The republics of the former Soviet Union suffered 3 types of revolution.

  1. Struggle for independence and its acquisition
  2. Transition from the totalitarian government system to the democratic government system
  3. Unprecedented property revolution, when within a short period, transition from state property based planned economy to private property based market economy had to be made.

The latter revolution had to be done by the statesmen and officials. And in no country the above mentioned individuals could resist the temptation of using their positions to establish ownership and businesses. In the meantime, there was no monitoring body; the society and the judicial system were not formed.

Hence, 3 types of corruption may be talked about:

  1. The 1st  one is characteristic to all types; including the developed countries;
  2. The 2nd one is mainly characteristic to post soviet countries, since those have inherited corruptible displays/demonstrations of soviet system, in particular those of educational and healthcare spheres.
  3. The 3rd type is related to the “ know-how” of post-soviet countries with highest bureaucratic corruption, i.e. bureaucrats tend to have their own share in a new business, when an employer must pay a part of his business to the high ranking official instead of only paying a regular amount.

In Armenia, corruption is spread across different levels of governance, therefore, corruption plays a major role in the control over administrative and economic relations. According to Transparency International, Armenia has recorded a progress in Corruption Perception Index; however, the corruption level still remains high, as a result of which the country is ranking the 105th out of 176 countries. The report states that “despite legislative revisions in relation to elections and party financing, corruption either persists or has re-emerged in new forms.”

During recent years, citizens participating in social movements and actions of protest in various countries clearly mention that corruption in its diverse manifestations is one of the main causes – if not the crucial one – of the complex problems of their states and communities.

The main anti-corruption institutions of the Armenian government are the Anti-corruption Council – headed by the Prime Minister and the Anti-Corruption Strategy Monitoring Commission. For productive activities, the anti-corruption body must 1. Be apolitical/unbiased, 2. Be an office totally independent from civil forces, 3. Involve international organizations in its activity.

The newly established council is composed of the Ministers of Finance and Justice, Chief Justice, the Chairman of the High-ranking Officials Ethics Commission, one representative per each parliamentary opposition party, the Public Council Chairman, as well as 3 representatives of civil society.

The Public Council of Armenia has already expressed their opinion regarding the government draft decree “on formation of the anti-corruption council and approving its composition”.

We believe the draft of the represented document needs to be revisited, in particular

  1. Corruption shall not be limited to a general definition, but shall detail the idea of it and reflect all those phenomena that need to be fight against.
  2. The Council’s goals, rights and responsibilities, as well as the secretariat’s scope of competence shall be clarified.
  3. Based on the above clarifications, the Council composition should be supplemented (including some of Heads of the National Assembly should be considered also).

The Public Council believes that the government itself must be interested in unveiling cases of corruption. If the government does not unveil those, the society, which realizes that corruption is an evil for the state, loses their trust towards the authorities. The fight against corruption will not succeed by the government, the opposition, or by the society acting independently, but results will be reached through cooperation of the three. One of the Public Council’s priorities is to find a proper format for that cooperation. To our firm belief, first, several primary risk areas should be determined, and then, resources should be focused on the causes generating these phenomena.

In 2008, the RA criminal code was amended to support more effective mechanisms of fighting corruption. In 2011, several ministries and state agencies have implemented anticorruption activities; in particular new procedures were defined in granting a passport, registering companies and purchase of driver’s license to eliminate corruption when getting suchlike documents.

The experience/practice shows, that despite the above mentioned initiatives, the anticorruption policy is not satisfactory or effective enough. Though, according to the government, the reforms have given significant results, in the GRECO evaluation report of 2011 (the EU group of states against corruption) it is mentioned that Armenia should continue the legislative reforms to be in alignment with criminal code convention re EU corruption battle. The above mentioned reforms well enable the foreign citizens to chase legislative violations of bribery and its demand. However, the number of RA statesmen arrested or accountable for bribery has recently increased. In November 2011, by the Prime Minister’s initiative few high officials, mainly from the ministries of agriculture, finance, education and healthcare have been dismissed from work.

The strong ties between Armenian state governmental system and the business do not allow the government to be independent. According to law, the state officials are not allowed to be engaged within business activities; however in reality they often pursue business interests. Many deputies of National Assembly and state officials have own companies and conduct business.

I think it should be also mentioned that in Armenia, during recent years, positive results were registered with regard to the freedom of speech, and in the region, those can be even regarded as exemplary.

The mass media periodically covers the mentioned negative phenomena. If we add to this also the fact that the government’s activities are constantly under monitoring by the rather organized newly formed various groups of civil society, we can make promising prognosis regarding the increasing importance of the role of the Public Council, civil society and the mass media in the coming years.

We are confident that in this process, critically important for the country development, the support of various international organizations, particularly, AICESIS and Transparency International, as well as other donor organizations, will be essential.

Thank You.

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