Hetq is conducting an investigation regarding the transparency with which Armenian state agencies are implementing programs financed by the European Union.
In the first portion of our coverage, related to the conduct of law enforcement structures in Armenia, we showed that, for the most part, they do not publicize information about the funds they receive. Such information can only be obtained if one sends a specific written inquiry.
European Union (EU) financing of projects in Armenia is conducted via grants, contracts, and technical/budgetary support. Armenia’s Ministry of the Economy coordinates EU technical and budgetary assistance. In cases of technical assistance, the EU finances activities directly; no actual money is received by Armenia. Budgetary support is when the EU allocates funds directly to Armenia’s national budget (budgetary revenue). Furthermore, budgetary support is conditional on policy dialog, performance assessment and capacity building.
“To be eligible for budget support, a country must have: transparency and oversight of the budget (budget information must be made publicly available)” (See: European Commission webpage on budget support and dialog with partner countries)
A program costing more than 1.5 million Euros and not one public notice
One example of technical support involved the opening of the Diplomatic School at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 2010. In 2013, the EU financed a program designed to strengthen the administrative and institutional capacities of the school. The program cost 900,000 Euros (2013-2015). Earlier this year, Traian Hristea (then the Head of European Union Delegation in Armenia) announced that the EU would continue to finance the program until May 2017. Over the course of four years (2013-2017), the program will cost 1.660 million Euros. Hetq only received this information by writing directly to the ministry, since its website contained no such data. There are only two lines about the opening of the school in the ministry’s 2010 annual report.
|July 1, 2013: Traian Hristea (left) and Armenian Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian announce the new EU-funded project for the Diplomatic School|
Information on EU Funded Educational Projects Is Found In a Variety of Sources
EU-funded programs implemented by Armenia’s Ministry of Education and Science include university and professional educational sectors. Regarding the first, the ministry notes the Tempus and Twinning programs. Educational institutions in Armenia have been participating in the Tempus program (designed to modernize the higher education system) since 1995. From 2010-2015, 16 programs were carried out. According to data from the ministry, the budgets for these programs ranged from 200,000 to 1 million Euros. The ministry’s website has no information at all on these programs that were implemented simultaneously. Instead, the ministry suggests that anyone interested should visit the Tempus national office website.
The EU Twinning program is aimed at supporting the development of administrative and institutional capacities of targeted agencies, as well as assisting in the drafting of corresponding laws and codes based on overall EU legislation. Funds allocated within the program mostly finance the consultative work of EU specialists.
During the period under study, Armenia’s Ministry of Education and Science conducted one such program, which was called “The Strengthening of Armenia’s Higher Education Sector: Aimed at Integrating It into the European Higher Education Region”. The 24 month program was launched in July 2014 with a 1 million Euro budget. According to the ministry, 60 international experts are involved in the program.
|Erasmus+ Information Day in Yerevan: December 11, 2014, (erasmusplus.am/)|
More costly were programs targeting Armenia’s preliminary professional education institutes (technical schools) and middle professional educational institutes (colleges). From 2011-2015, 21 million Euros was supposed to be allocated to the national budget (19 million in budgetary support and 2 million in technical support) for the program “Drafting an Agenda for Employment and the Continuance of Reform of Professional education Instruction”.
Thus, according to information provided by the Ministry of Education and Science, EU funding of programs in education can reach a total of 38 million Euros. When Hetq asked if the accounting of these programs has been published, the ministry replied that quarterly reports are presented to the government, that the minister presents them in his annual address, that information is displayed in “the websites of appropriate state departments, and that extensive material and a periodical is published containing such information.
Financial programs haven’t been implemented; the non-financial ones have been published
In response to a Hetq inquiry, Armenia’s Ministry of Urban Construction replied that it had not implemented any EU-funded programs from2010-2015. Nevertheless, non-financial programs had been implemented jointly with the EU. For example, there was TAEX (the Technical Assistance and Information Exchange instrument that supports public administrations with regard to the approximation, application and enforcement of EU legislation as well as facilitating the sharing of EU best practices. A delegation of TAEX experts visited Armenia in 2012. There were also events (2012-2013) related to the housing sector. These are displayed in reports appearing in a sub-section of the ministry’s website under the heading “International Cooperation”.
Information regarding financing of energy programs not published
Armenia’s Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources notes the INOGATE, launched in 1996, as one of its long-term EU-funded technical support programs. Its aim is to decrease the dependency on organic fossil fuels and energy imports, and to raise energy supply safety in the eleven partner countries. It also seeks to mitigate climate change.
This information, supplied to Hetq as a result of our inquiry, also appears in the ministry’s website. However, neither the response nor the website specifies the amount of funding for the completed programs.
In its response, the ministry wrote about the drafting of a document regarding “The Strategy to Manage Radioactive Waste and Fuels” that aims to manage such items safely. The document also seeks outline and operate the deposits of such items according to ministry safety standards. The program is in effect from 2013-2015 but nothing regarding EU finding is noted.
In response to our inquiry to the government, the economy ministry (coordinating EU support), replied that via the EU’s Partnership Investment instrument, it participates in a number of support programs in conjunction with the European Investment Bank and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBDR). As an example, the ministry noted the “Gyumri-2 Substation Renovation” credit program. The 2009-2016 cost is 9.286 million Euros. It is being jointly financed by the German state owned KfW Development Bank and the government of Armenia. It remains a mystery why the ministry provides no information regarding other programs completed with support from the same bank or the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IRBD); information that appears in the only budget completion report published by the ministry – the one in 2013.
|Gyumri-2 substation President.am|
Culture ministry says it hasn’t implemented any EU-funded programs
In response to our inquiry, Armenia’s Ministry of Culture says it hasn’t received any EU financing for programs during 2010-2015. The last news in the ministry’s website regarding EU cooperation dates to 2007.
Examples of ministries with an ‘international cooperation’ section
Armenia’s Ministry of Nature Protection responded by saying that information on programs, either completed or ongoing, under their purview is available in the ministry’s website under the heading “International Partnership”. (See Nature Protection heading)
What follows are the EU supported regional environmental programs being conducted. (They appeared just days after Hetq wrote to the ministry).
- European Neighborhood and Cooperation instrument – Unified Environmental Reporting System; 2010-2015, EU-funded. Budget of 3 million Euros for six countries.
- Support to Mitigate Climate Change and Adaptability in ENP’s Eastern Countries and Russia; 2013-2016. Cost 3 million Euros for three countries.
- Preservation of Environment of International River Basins; 2012-2015. EU funding of 7.5 million Euros for seven countries.
- Extinguishing of Forest Fires with Running Water, Using New Technologies; 2013-2015. EU funding of 91,260 Euros.
Our inquiry to Armenia’s Ministry of Territorial Administration and Emergency Situations went unanswered. The ministry’s website has some information regarding programs implemented with various international bodies, including the EU.
Our investigation thus reveals that Armenia’s state agencies are basically not interested in providing comprehensive information regarding programs they have allegedly implemented with international financing.
In certain cases, such information is quite piecemeal, even when we have forwarded official requests. One or two departments do provide adequately framed information, but the frequency of information updating is questionable.
In the remaining cases, while an overall heading for such reporting exists, state agencies prefer not to be accountable to the country’s taxpayers.
Top photo: Azatutyun.am
This publication has been produced with the assistance of the European Union. The contents of this publication are the sole responsibility of “Investigative Journalists” NGO and can in no way be taken to reflect the views of the European Union.