During last week’s Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) summit, Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian, among other issues, touched upon internal reforms, including the “ruthless struggle” against corruption, and assured that he would “eradicate” Armenia from that evil, indicating that about 500 officials are obligated to declare their income and property regularly.
It is true that high-ranking officials are required to submit a statement annually, about their possessions. However, the problem lies in the lack of review of the presented statements and absence of follow up action in that regard.
Often, in those declarations we see that an official has two luxury cars, two cottages, so many thousand dollars in the bank, same amount of Eros and few million Drams. A year later, the same officials declare twice as much as previous year’s property, without giving any explanation as to how they were able to amass such a wealth, with modest wages. When the press approach those individuals and ask them about the matter, they all have a ready answer. “I received them as a gift from a friend in Moscow”. It is interesting that everyone of these officials has a rich friend in Moscow.
For the Europeans, who were listening to the president’s speech, his words likely were very satisfying. However, for the people of Armenia the words about “ruthless struggle against corruption” and the “eradication of corruption” are meaningless and are used exclusively for external consumption.
In order to combat bribery and to eradicate corruption, first of all, the Prosecutor’s office must act to validate the accuracy of the declared wealth and its sources. Otherwise, the assurances given by the president become futile, and will turn out that nothing was eradicated and the country will continue to remain in the clutches of corruption.