Friday, 21 September

Why Do We Struggle Against Corruption?

Once again the struggle against corruption is intensifying in the country. The National Security Service has circulated a video-tape showing an employee of the Kotayk Marzpetaran (Governor’s Office) accepting a 60,000 dram bribe from a citizen. The woman was paying the 60,000 drams in order to get her name registered on the list of those entitled to social benefits.

On the frontlines of the struggle are also the Police, the Prosecutor’s Office, the National Assembly and the government. Joining in the struggle are international institutions that provide financial grants designed to erase the plight of corruption completely or at least to reduce it presence.

Under the name of this struggle millions of dollars are going up in smoke. Again, we are witness to anti-corruption national programs as if the previous ones have been fully realized with unsurpassed results.

And if those results aren’t tangible, the society is at fault. It doesn’t wish to see those results. Furthermore, they say that the society itself is corrupted and not ready for change. To put the icing on the cake, we also hear it said that such is our ‘mentality’.

No dear sirs - there is not one global, national or trans-national anti-corruption program that can remove the scourge of corruption from our country since the regime itself is corrupt. Naturally, it has no wish to see corruption erased.

How can it be erased when the President of the Court purchases a private house to the tune of $1 million or when one of the former Dashnak ministers, under the name of one of his relatives, receives a chunk of valuable downtown Yerevan property in the Cascade area from the Mayor and then turns around and sells it at thousands of dollars per square meter to Spyurkahay members of the ARF? How can it possibly be erased when National Assembly Deputies are buying $200,000 apartments in Yerevan luxury buildings? This list of examples is endless and we can name names; but what would it change?

They are again starting to talk about making vital changes to the law so that individuals will not be able to circumvent existing rules and regulations. It is merely naive self-deception, or more correctly, a new money-making sector. For years on end there have been countless organizations that have been so operating - using outside monies to write laws and often writing the same law repeatedly with minor variations.
The Republic of Armenia has signed off on various international agreements on the issue, assuming a number of obligations as a result. Will the regime actually implement the conditions placed on it? No. They’ll convene a conference or two and that’s it. The regime possesses the expertise to do so. Tragically, these international organizations will come to terms with the present state of affairs.

A few years ago the Yerevan office of the United Nations was conducting an anti-corruption project. They organized groups that visited hospitals and schools. What ever became of that project and what results did it have? Not a one! Today, the same United Nations is churning out programs with an increased urgency and the organization is on the frontlines of the anti-corruption parade. Nothing will result from all of this since there are people on the inside who are funneling away projects for this or that organization. They all know the rules of the game, the rules of “illusion making”.

During a recent meeting held at the Prosecutor General’s Office with representatives of various NGO’s and news reporters where corruption issues were being discussed, there was a representative of one international organization, who was seen to be smiling and laughing in turns. At first I thought that I had said something that had set him off. A bit later he left, probably to write up a report on what important anti-corruption proposals had been raised at the meeting. This is a vital step in keeping the anti-corruption program alive and kicking. And this young international institution’s representative, or someone similar, continues to serve as a vital cog in the wheel, insuring that this game goes on. This is the case because the same people who know how to “manufacture the illusion” that they are indeed working away and obtaining results are to be found in these global institutions as well.

Three years ago I became interested in learning more about one of the government’s reform packages. It turned out that in two of the programs the wife of one of the Deputy Ministers was involved; first as an advisor and then as a translator, of course at the same time. I should also note that the Deputy Minister in question had a pivotal role to play in both.

What kind of anti-corruption struggle can be waged in Armenia when till the present day not one government or one minister has expressed a desire or seen fit to compel the publication of all the decisions adopted by the Yerevan Mayor. Just try to get your hands on those documents through legal channels; you’ll wind up empty-handed.

For some inexplicable reason, when they discuss corruption they immediately point to the educational and healthy care systems, as if that is where corruption rears its ugly head the most.

Corruption is to be found in the system of government - in the National Assembly and in government decisions. Just take a look at how parcels of land in the center of town known to possess great state significance have been sold off. This has taken place directly through government mandate - not one competitive auction has either taken place or been announced. Perusing the names of the owners of these concerns we see that, standing behind them is this or that official. There are no such random names in these lists.

Just what kind of anti-corruption drive are we talking about? Who are going to be the torchbearers in this struggle? Is it remotely likely that these people will wage a struggle against themselves and expose the true facts regarding their practices? Of course not!

I really think we must put a halt to these fairytales that a number of news organizations feed us on a daily basis. If they want to offer up examples of corruption as didactic material let them publish all the decisions of the Mayor regarding land sales.

Rest assured that “Hetq” will publish them and others. 

“Elite” Decisions

The Government of Armenia passes two types of legislation. Let’s conditionally label them “routine” and “elite”.

Routine decisions, affixed with the letter “N” - which appear as 261n   - affect all citizens. These decisions are to be found in the government’s website and in official bulletins.

Elite decisions are affixed with the letter “A”. We would advise the government to substitute the letter “A” with the letter “E” (as in elite); they’d be more forthcoming if they did.  These decisions aren’t published since they are passed for the benefit of the ‘national elite’. With the passage of these decisions the government shares the national wealth with the national elite. And what type of resolutions are these? They solely deal with the sale of property; obtaining private property. Generally, these decisions facilitate the direct sale of property or land to a given organization or individual. The price to be paid, always much lower than the going market price, is also specified in the decision. The price is determined by any one of the real estate agencies and these firms are also a part of the national elite.

In its next issue “Hetq” will begin to publish the records of these decisions and expose the reality lurking behind them.

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