PM prioritizes work on prevention of political corruption: Anticorruption Policy Council holds meeting
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Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan chaired an Anticorruption Policy Council meeting, which was held in the Office of Government. The meting discussed a number of agenda items.
Minister of Justice Rustam Badasyan reported back the results of the activities planned for 2019-2020 and carried out in 2020 as part of the Anticorruption Strategy, as well as the results of monitoring and evaluation. Nearly half of the planned activities were said to have been completed in 2020, 13 activities were implemented in a larger volume than planned; there are no outstanding activities; some of them were implemented partially due to the situation that developed as a result of COVID-19 and the Artsakh war and the priorities of the public administration system operating in these conditions.
The Premier stressed the importance of targeted anticorruption measures and asked about their practical effectiveness. Nikol Pashinyan highlighted the need for consistent efforts to prevent the manifestations of political corruption. In this context, Corruption Prevention Commission Chairperson Haykuhi Haroutunyan noted that the Commission had conducted detailed studies to expose those persons combining a public office and business activities. She advised that the results of inspections of some public officials had been sent to law enforcement authorities. There are criminal proceedings at the stage of preliminary investigation.
Touching upon the current report on the activities of the Commission, Haykuhi Haroutunyan noted that 47 people to be appointed to public office were checked in the period under review, including prosecutors, judges, candidates for judge of the Constitutional Court, candidates for the Supreme Judicial Council. The findings were favorable for 26 persons, favorable with some reservations for 16 individuals, and negative for 4 people. No finding was issued for 1 candidate.
Work continued to improve the system for property, income and interest declaration. The number of eligible persons has increased threefold as compared to 2019; some 640 declarations have been analyzed, 210 of which were statements submitted by Supreme Judicial Council members, members of the Constitutional Court / judges and their family members. Based on the results of the analysis, the Commission instituted 4 proceedings for breach of the rules of conduct, the requirement of incompatibility and other restrictions. A relevant finding has been issued. A tender is out for the new electronic system to serve as a digital tool in the fight against corruption.
A comprehensive methodology for assessing corruption risks in public administration has been developed in cooperation with international experts. The following areas were selected as the most risky for assessment: appointments, promotions, performance appraisals, public budget management, and public procurement. The process is to be launched soon.
As part of the agenda, the Minister of Justice presented the steps taken to establish an anticorruption committee and anticorruption law-courts. These entities will be engaged in the investigation of corruption crimes. Rustam Badasyan noted that relevant legislative packages have already been adopted by the National Assembly in the first reading, and the second reading is expected shortly. Discussions are underway on the provision of building conditions, staffing, integrity, final specification of the scope of activities, effective organization of joint work with other public agencies and technical equipment.
The legislative package on anticorruption courts provides that 5 judges of specialized courts and anticorruption courts of appeal will hear civil cases initiated under the Law on Confiscation of Ill-Earned Assets.”
The Prime Minister asked whether work on confiscation of ill-earned assets is being carried out in parallel. He was told that 4 cases were at the final stage. The Supreme Judicial Council has launched the process of selecting and training the judges who should consider corruption cases. Opinions were voiced that the judiciary reform might be accelerated following the establishment of anticorruption courts. Reference was made to the remuneration of anticorruption judges. In this context, the Premier noted that adequate remuneration would be a strong incentive for anticorruption judges conducive to enhanced service quality. Nikol Pashinyan stressed the need to introduce mandatory mechanisms for checking the internal integrity of anticorruption staff, considering it a priority for the system being formed according to new standards.
The Anticorruption Council next reviewed a legislative package, which provides for a comprehensive disclosure of real beneficiaries. Rustam Badasyan advised that a unified mechanism for identifying the real owners and beneficiaries shall be introduced to ensure enhanced efficiency in the fight against corruption. It will be applicable to all legal entities in order to increase the disclosure of information on the real owners by introducing an electronic system and building a comprehensive information database. The relevant information will be available for the public at large. The effectiveness of this process is expected to increase over time in parallel with the full formation of the anticorruption system.