This past November, the RA government allocated 1.3 billion AMD to the Lori Regional Administration in order to tackle the region’s most pressing issues. It’s part of the government’s 2nd Regional Solutions Project.
Lori Regional Administrator Artur Nalbandyan then allocated 405 million of the money to the Vanadzor Municipality for capital construction projects in the city that serves as Lori’s regional center.
A proposal was made to allocate 200 million to repair the road leading towards the cemetery in the Taron 4 district and repairs to Ukraine Street in the Taron 2 district of Vanadzor.
The remaining 205 million was allocated for renovations to the Edward Kzmartyan Music School. The Vanadzor Municipality also allocated another 200 million out of its own budget towards repairing the school’s dilapidated building.
The contractor for the 600 million capital works project is Argishti 1Ltd. The company belongs to Seyran Darbinyan, the brother of Vanadzor Mayor Samvel Darbinyan.
Over the years of Mayor Darbinyan’s tenure, all of the road paving and other capital projects in Vanadzor have been contracted out to Argishti 1.
This fact alone would raise some eyebrows. In fact, Valery Antonyan, who heads the Roadways Construction Division at the Lori Administration, carefully chose his words when he commented on the issue with Hetq.
Surprisingly, Mr. Antonyan wasn’t even aware of the construction work underway in Vanadzor as part of the 2nd Regional Solutions Project.
Antonyan told this reporter that a tender bid for renovation work on the music school had been announced. With a slip of the tongue, he then said that the Argishti 1 company had won the bid.
“No. I actually don’t know who won,” Antonyan rejoined, in an attempt to cover his tracks.
He then told me that the state government has allocated 205 million directly to the Vanadzor Municipality for the music school renovation project.
Thus, we are lead to believe that Antonyan, an official in the Lori Administration tasked with overseeing construction projects in the region, is unaware that it’s his boss, the Regional Administrator, who ordered the Vanadzor projects and that there was no tender bid for the music school work.
Vardan Gevorgyan, who heads the Transport and Road Construction Division at the Lori Administration, said that 115 million AMD had been allocated for the cemetery road and 85 million for repairs to Ukraine Street.
Mr. Gevorgyan said that 90% of the asphalt paving of Ukraine Street was completed and that 2/3rds of the cemetery road had been repaired.
He said that Argishti 1 was given the contract for the road work but that it wasn’t the result of a tender bid.
“It wasn’t a tender bid per say. The companies presented a synopsis of their services and the one with the lowest cost estimate was chosen,” Mr. Gevorgyan said.
He also asked us if we were aware of the fact that Argishti 1has been the contractor for a number of projects involving the regional administration, Armenian national ministries and even the Millennium Challenge.
“Of course this fact was taken into account when we selected a contractor. The company also owns the necessary technical equipment and has an asphalt factory,” Gevorgyan pointed out.
While he claimed that the road work was under constant quality control, the official couldn’t tell us the name of the inspection company.
“I don’t have those specific papers with me right now,” Gevorgyan said. This was odd because I was talking to him in his office.
The official has yet to provide any documentation attesting to the quality of the asphalt being paved on those streets.
He then advised us to go and see a company called Khachmishshin in Ijevan. He said he believed they were the ones performing the inspections.
Tigran Papayan, Chief of the Vanadzor Municipality’s Division of Urban Construction and Architecture, told me that the they were the ones who requested that Argishti 1 perform the work on the music school.
When I visited the construction sites on January 9, I was told that some of the work had to be halted due to the cold winter weather and that work would resume as soon as spring arrived.
The music school really looked in bad shape and appeared, to my untrained eyes at least, to be a dangerous job.
I asked the work crew if spending 405 million to renovate the building made any sense.
“It would take double that amount for a new building. Besides, this building dates back to 1940,” said crew chief Aram Kocharyan. “We want to preserve this part of our history.”