Saturday, 22 September

The Village Mayor Treats The Community Budget Like His Own Pocket Money

Head of the administration of the village of Akori in the Lori Marz and Republican Party member Kamo Simonyan said on Alaverdi's Ankyun +3 TV station the Republican Party is a very good party, and in his opinion the entire village should join it, even though the party hasn't done anything for the village of Akori. To this end, Simonyan forcibly collected the passports of the villagers, and even took it into his head to summon the parents of children who attend the village-run kindergarten and order them to join the party immediately, or risk having their children dismissed.

That wasn't all Simonyan said on television. When 80 year-old Ghevond Avetisyan, Angin Vardevanyan, and retired village nurse Julieta Stepanyan criticized what the mayor said, he responded, “Every village has its dogs.”

The village of Akori was outraged both at the unacceptable ideas he expressed during the broadcast, and for the mayor's work in general. Our inquiries suggested that not one of the 3,000 people who live in Akori knew anything about the village's budget for the year 2006 or 2007. The mayor himself avoided meeting us. His deputy, Vruyr Simonyan, met us but seemed to lose the power of speech following a cell phone call to his boss. He refused to provide us with information on budget expenditures for 2006 and on planned expenditures and income for 2007 during our brief conversation, arguing that this information was with the accountant, who happened to be out sick.

What Simonyan did tell us was that the village budget is comprised mainly of subsidies. As Akori is a village with insufficient arable land, the budget incomes generated from taxes are very low – about 4-5 million drams. The village income, including funding from the government, comes to 25 million drams for 2007. But Simonyan failed to tell us how many there were in the village administration and what percentage of the budget was allocated to pay their salaries. And the reality is that budget income and state subsidies for Akori for 2007 total 38 million drams, 27 million of which are state payments.

20 million of that are subsidies, and the remaining 7 million drams Akori's portion of the environmental fees paid by the Armenian Copper Program (ACP) to the Armenian Government. Salary payments make up 25% of the budget, arrears come to 3 million drams, and budget debt equals 700,000 million drams. None of the residents of Akori has this information.

It appears that Simonyan did have reasons to hide the budget from the villagers. The villagers told us right in the village that the mayor has appointed his non-professional wife as a methodologist in the village music school. The director the school confirmed that the mayor's wife worked as a methodologist, but was not a member of the music school staff. Our inquiries revealed that Simonyan's wife had been appointed a full time 2 nd rank specialist with a salary of 30,000 drams as part of the staff of the village administration, although she had no musical education and could not even read music. The mayor's wife was appointed methodologist in the village kindergarten as well, though she knew nothing about pre-school education.

We received other information from the residents of Akori about the misappropriation of budgetary funds by Simonyan. For example, the mayor transferred 200,000 drams to the village kindergarten for food, but all the kindergarten got was one teapot.

The villagers also told us that the municipality received aid in the form of one sack of flour, vegetable oil and cereal for each veteran of World War II on May 9, 2006. But the food wasn't distributed among war veterans. Instead, it was sold in the shop owned by the deputy mayor, and the village administration gave each veteran 5,000 drams on its own behalf. The people of Akori are also outraged about the 700,000 drams allocated to social programs in the 2006 budget. Only the village mayor knows where that aid went.

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