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Larisa Paremuzyan

Programs Are Selected and Implemented by the Regional Governors

With the aim of solving immediate problems confronting the Marzes (Administrative Regions), the Government of the Republic of Armenia (ROA) has approved a decision to allocate a total of 1 billion and 770 thousand Armenian Drams from the 2007 forecasted Reserve Fund of the ROA State Budget for project expenditures in the Lori Marze.

Of that amount the Lori Regional Council has contributed a sum of 225.6 million drams earmarked for twelve communities in the Marze’s Tumanyan district. According to Sevak Hovhannisyan, Chief of the Regional Council’s Financial Department, the funds will be distributed to the cities of Alaverdi, Akhtala, Shamlugh and Tumanyan, and to the villages of Odzun, Neghots, Karmir Aghegi, Aygehat, Metz Ayrum, Shamut, Ardvi and Tchotchkan.

It’s all together comical to note that the government of the ROA, which for years on end remained indifferent to the depths of corruption existent in community budgetary processes and to the frenzied sale and purchase of non-residential buildings and land that actually belong to the communities, is now displaying a degree of concern regarding community-wide issues on the eve of the upcoming presidential elections. Naturally, such concern stems from preelection perceived interests. The projects included in these development programs were proposed by various community mayors despite the fact that according to custom the mayors do not consult with community residents regarding the prioritization of projects envisaged. Nevertheless, the repair of roofs of residential homes seems to have been classified as one of these priority projects. 

Residents joke about the filling of potholes as envisaged in the inter-community roads program. As they see it it’s the most efficient way to skim money off the top. When it comes to the projects planned for the communities, it’s not the mayors of the locales involved that are registered as “project clients” but rather the Regional Councils. The Regional Councils are the bodies that control the purse strings and make payments when the work is completed. This set-up is understandable when it comes to repairing schools falling under the jurisdiction of the Regional Councils. The fact that the Regional Councils control budget disbursements when it comes to road work and roof repair that falls under the purview of the local communities has led to openly expressed dissatisfaction amongst the Community Mayors and has given rise to speculation in the communities involved. As to what amount the Regional Council had allocated for projects under his jurisdiction, Tumanyan Mayor Lyova Zavaryan reluctantly stated, “ I don’t know, I don’t own that sum, I have no clue.” Later on he added, 52 million drams.

We were also able to wring out of him the fact that the sum would go to repairing a 1.5 kilometer stretch of roadway in the city of Tumanyan and that the work would be carried out by “Titanyan Brothers Ltd”, a firm registered in Alaverdi. According to other details provided by the mayor, 30 million drams was also allocated to the major renovation of a certain building in Tumanyan, the job to be completed by the “Vala” construction company. The mayor couldn’t tell us more about the firm or where it was officially registered.

When asked why the Regional Governor controlled the flow of funds destined for inter-communal roads and house repair and not the Community Mayors, L. Zavaryan responded, “ Do I look like a member of the government? They started the ball rolling and the guys are doing the work.” 

Papik Arushyan, the Village Mayor of Metz Ayrum, was not sure of the amount that had been allocated for use in his community nor did he know what projects were planned. “ I don’t know; it beats me. They recently gave us 1.4 million drams that I used for buying gas. Maybe that’s it.... No, I really don’t know.”

It’s evident that ROA Prime Minister Serzh Sargsyan is well aware of the Community Mayors’ tendency to skim off the top and the way in which they spend money. Since he lacks confidence in the mayors, the Prime Minister would rather work around them at this critical period in his career. Related to this issue is the clarification provided to the “Lori Marze” newspaper (October 27, 2007, # 84-10168) by Valery Antonyan, Chief of the Regional Council’s Construction Department in which he states that work envisaged in the program has already begun, that the competitive bidding stage had ended on October 5th, and that construction firms had been selected to carry out the work as planned. However, it turns out that the optimism expressed by the Chief of Construction regarding the timely start of the work is not born out by the facts. For example, Varuzhan Tamazyan, the Village Mayor of Tchotchkan, stated in relation to the issue that, “ I’ve talked to the Regional Governor about the restoration of the two-story Tchotchkan water-pumping station that delivers flows from the region of Noyemberyan and then underneath the village of Artchis. Five years ago all the equipment at the station was stolen and as a result 300 hectares of tillable land was deprived of irrigation. The Regional Governor instructed me to have the managers of the pump station report to his office. Once there they would have to devise a professional proposal for the work to be included in the development program’s agenda. I sent the managers to the Regional Governor but to date nothing has been done.”

Suren Tamazyan, the Village Mayor of Akhtala, was obviously reluctant to tell us that while he had initially proposed roof renovation work for 50 houses to the Regional Governor, the final project only included 6 houses. “ I proposed work on the bridge a long time ago and it’s only been pushed through now.” As to why he hadn’t been informed about the go-ahead for the bridge reconstruction work and who, in fact, had revived the project and gotten it approved, Mayor Tamazyan didn’t say. The Mayor also reported that 30 million drams had been allocated for road repair within Akhtala, 24 million for the roof renovation of six houses and that 28 million was earmarked to reconstruct the bridge (measuring 12 x 7 meters) situated near the courtyard of Building 1 on Ordzhonikidze Street in the Barit neighborhood. Residents of Building 1 on Ordzhonikidze Street informed us that work on the bridge commenced on September 15th of this year but that it hadn’t yet been completed.

The residents stated that, “ We are waiting for the reinforced concrete pillars. “ Under the bridge in the floodwater causeway is an eight-meter chunk of reinforced concrete that was a support column of the old bridge structure. According to residents, the engineers refuse to remove the column because the job would consume a great amount of diesel fuel. The residents, on the other hand, are concerned that come the spring floods, the chunk of concrete will hinder the floodwaters to flow freely and that the water will spill out over the banks and flood nearby roads and house yards. Sanasar Titanyan, President of “Titanyan Brothers Ltd”, the firm responsible for completing the job, stated that removal of the concrete from the causeway wasn’t included in the work specifications and so the engineers merely crushed it into smaller pieces. He also said that the work was being carried out under the personal supervision of ROA Prime Minister Serzh Sargsyan and that no Community Mayors were involved. Mr. Titanyan also gave assurances that despite the suspicions of the local residents, expenditures for pothole repair work were being disbursed properly. Despite the large number of potholes to be repaired, Mr. Titanyan reported that repair work in the city of Tumanyan would be completed as of November 5th and that road repairs on Metalurgneri Street in the Sarahart neighborhood of Alaverdi and on Piruzyan Street in the city would be completed in two days. Extensive road repair work in the city of Akhtala would commence soon afterwards. Gagik Sokhakyan, the Chief of the Alaverdi Municipality’s Urban Construction Department, also reported that of the 90 million drams allocated by the Alaverdi Municipality, 61 million was earmarked to repair the roofs of ten multi-story buildings in the city and that 19 million was slotted for pothole repairs on the city’s streets. Mr. Sokhakyan concluded, “ All the work is proceeding in a normal manner.”