Saturday, 22 September

$21,500 for a Toilet

Edik Baghdasaryan
Larisa Paremuzyan

In 2007, the Alaverdi Municipality allocated 7,200,000 drams (US $ 21,500) to build a toilet near the entrance to the monastery in the village of Sanahin. Construction work on the toilet has yet to be completed.

The idea to build a toilet on the territory adjacent to the monastery, right next to the entrance, was the brainchild of the Mayor of Alaverdi (see photo).

Artavazd Nazaretyan, head of the department of architecture at the Mother See, was asked whether they were aware that such a structure was being built and whether they had approved. In reply, he said that he had been at the site about a month ago and had not seen a toilet. When we said that the toilet building had been standing for a few months already, he said that he was not aware of it.

Gagik Sokhakyan, head of the construction department at Alaverdi City Hall, said that permission for the building had been given by Reverend Sepuh Chuljyan, the primate of the Gugarak Diocese.

The funny thing is that the new toilet does not have a sewage line and the area is not supplied with water. “We have dug a tunnel and we are going to transport it,” said Sokhakyan, explain the “mechanism” with which the toilet would function. “What about water? There is no water in the village. The villagers were getting water in buckets when we were there,” we said. “We have installed a reservoir and provided water according to a timetable,” said Sokhakyan. But the villagers insisted that there hadn't been running water in the village for months.

The mayor has, of course, taken the lion's share of the 7,200,000 drams. According to the builder's estimates, barely 2 million drams has been spent on the toilet.

The richest people in Armenia's cities and villages are usually the community leaders – the mayors and village heads. Artur Nalbandyan, the mayor of Alaverdi, is no exception. The central market of the town, with a number of shops, belongs to him. There is a market in Alaverdi with a chain of stores named KATA, from the first letters of Karen, Ashot, Taron and Artur. The K is Alaverdi's former Mayor Karen Yesayan, the A is the director of the Tumanyan electrical network Ashot Shakaryan, the T is Taron Abgaryan, a businessman working in rock quarries and the final A is current Mayor of Alaverdi Artur Nalbandyan. The six kindergartens in Alaverdi buy their supplies from this store. City Hall has bought 27 million drams worth of items from the KATA chain, of which 17 million drams has been for food items.

The Mayor of Alaverdi has been successful at “siphoning” off any amount of money he desires from the city budget. He has allocated 400,000 drams annually just to pay for his mobile phone conversations.

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