Public Discussion of the Draft of the 5th Anti-Corruption Strategy was held

The “Armenian Lawyers’ Association” NGO, “Europe in Law Association” NGO, the Union of Manufacturers and Businessmen of Armenia, Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum Armenian National Platform (EaP CSF ANP), the EU-Armenia Civil Society Platform, the CSO Anti-Corruption Coalition of Armenia, and the RA Ministry of Justice organized and held the public discussion of the Draft RA Anti-Corruption Strategy and Its Implementation Action Plan for 2023-2026. About 50 participants from state bodies, civil society organizations and networks, advocacy, business and anti-corruption expert community took part in the discussion. The speakers made opening remarks.

Deputy Minister of Justice Armenuhi Harutyunyan in her speech mentioned that the civil society played an active role in the development of the previous strategies and hopee that they would also play an important role in the development of the Strategy for 2023-2026.

“The real involvement of all without exceptions is necessary so that the fight against corruption becomes a reality. It is a challenge for all countries in the world and it is a constant challenge as well. It will not be possible to say that we have achieved such success that we have nothing more to do in this direction. This is one of those destinations where there will always be something to do. We will always need all of you in this matter,” the Deputy Minister said and added that she hopes to exchange ideas on the vision of the future in a constructive atmosphere.

Then, the Deputy Minister of Finance Avag Avanesyan made an opening speech. He mentioned that the latest OECD studies showed that 68 percent of corruption cases in member countries of the organization are recorded in the procurement sector. The general policy of the Ministry of Finance is to ensure absolute transparency in procurement.

“Any case of corruption means a waste of hard-earned funds of RA citizens. Our goal is to identify all such cases and reduce them as much as possible. We understand that the dream that corruption cases will become 0 is almost impossible, because the developed world has not managed to solve this problem, but we must try to do it. We will continue our steps to achieve absolute transparency,” the Deputy Minister noted, adding that the ineffective implementation of the strategy will provide an opportunity to waste funds.

Karen Zadoyan, President of the Armenian Lawyers’ Association of, stated in his opening speech that both the organization and the partners have been and are at the root of anti-corruption reforms in the RA and it is very important for them that these reforms go in the right direction.

“The Ministry of Justice has always been our partner, regardless of the officials. We consider the Ministry as an institution. Our major achievement is the state, independent RA and the anti-corruption policy will help us to have a better management system, a corruption-free system, to have a class of public servants bearing integrity values. Our organizations and partners will be consistent; we will participate and invest our efforts in the development of the anti-corruption policy and its monitoring. There will be sharp and evidence-based criticisms aimed at making the system better,” Karen Zadoyan said, noting that they will do everything to make the implementation of the strategy a success.

Hovsep Khurshudyan, Facilitator of the Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum Armenian National Platform (EaP CSF ANP), highlighted the importance of the constructive dialogue and noted that the state system and representatives of the civil society should overcome all problems with joint efforts.

“The negative tendencies of the corruption perception index cause concern among the public that corruption is beginning to raise head again. It is good that corruption is not systemic, it is visible. It means that the authorities are interested in dealing with this process in cooperation with the civil society, but we shall not fail to see the dangers of this process. We have important prospects for relations with the European Union. We will not be able to achieve this without overcoming this problem. Corruption is a disease that hinders the development of all sectors of the country,” Hovsep Khurshudyan, said, stressing that the EaP CSF ANP is actively involved in the development of the strategy.

The Co-Chair of the EU-Armenia Civil Society Platform Lusine Hakobyan in her opening speech mentioned that the fight against corruption is among the priorities of their organization. The platform has already developed one advisory opinion in that field.

“We attach importance to the development and adoption of such an anti-corruption strategy, which will be as inclusive as possible, will take into account the most acute problems in the field, and will include targeted solutions for these problems. Public discussions on this topic are also important, and that is why we have initiated organizing this discussion ourselves. I urge, I call to organize public discussions through sectoral platforms, coalitions, and institutional structures representing collective power,” Lusine Hakobyan said.

Armen Martirosyan, Vice-President of the Union of Manufacturers and Businessmen of Armenia believes that not many changes will take place in the society unless corruption becomes shameful, scary and unprofitable. According to him, bribery is the “fairest and most competitive” of corruption phenomena.

“If I want to get this or that order or license and another businessman also wants to get it, then we compete on the amount of the bribe. However, I cannot become an official’s cousin, godfather, godchild, or fellow student. I don’t praise bribery, I just want to show that these other phenomena exist and are still growing and thriving in Armenia, notwithstanding the fact that we say that the level of corruption has decreased. These other phenomena deepen. It is necessary to make an effort at the level of sacrifice, so that some actions are shameful for us,” Armen Martirosyan said, emphasizing the role of education in the fight against vicious phenomena.

In his opening speech, Hakob Avagyan, the Chairman of the Governing Board of the CSO Anti-Corruption Coalition of Armenia, disagreed with Hovsep Khurshudyan’s observation that there is no systemic corruption in Armenia. According to him, it is still too early to make assessments.

“As Mr. Martirosyan Vice-President of the Union of Manufacturers and Businessmen of Armenia, presented clear examples, corruption is not only bribery with “cash” money. We see such cases in our daily life, for example, the head of an administrative body goes to a campaign in a state car. Is it corruption or not? If we begin to evaluate all this, it is as if we are returning to the years against which the struggle began. In addition, there are people sitting around the table who have dedicated half of their lives to public activities, and it is very important that we feel that we are heard,” Hakob Avagyan said.

After the opening remarks, Hasmik Tigranyan, Acting Head of the Department of Anti-Corruption Policy Development and Monitoring of the Ministry of Justice, presented the Draft Anti-Corruption Strategy and the Implementation Action Plan deriving from it. According to her, actions will be carried out under 5 strategic goals. They are:

Prevention of corruption, Combating corruption, Anti-corruption education and awareness, Business integrity, protection of business interests, facilitation of state-business administration,/br> Improving the anti-corruption monitoring and evaluation system.

In the context of strengthening the structures, it is planned to adopt a unified law on the prevention of corruption, where all regulations will be included in one unified act. Rights protection mechanisms will be improved, considering it in the context of strengthening the HRD and educating the business sector so that the level of legal awareness increases, and they are aware which body they should apply to in case of a violation of their rights and be more consistent.

It is planned to improve the state procurement sector, ensure transparency and accountability, fair competition. Tigranyan also emphasized that citizens should also show intolerance to corruption and be consistent in order to raise such issues, as well as be demanding in respect of their rights.

The Head of the Department of Anti-Corruption Policy Development and Monitoring also referred to the institute of confiscation of property of illicit origin and noted that legislation should be improved to make it easier to return property of illicit origin located in other countries.

According to her, the possibility of introducing a “white list” in the framework of public procurement is being discussed currently, so that entities that have implemented anti-corruption mechanisms can promote it.

Anti-Corruption Expert Mariam Zadoyan spoke about the 3 goals and directions of the anti-corruption strategy. They are:

Prevention of corruption, Combating corruption, Business integrity, protection of business rights and facilitation of state-business administration.

One of the activities is intended to guarantee the anti-corruption expertise of draft legal acts: the expertise of the acts being developed (ex ante) and, if necessary, the expertise of the legal acts underlying them or related to them (ex post).

“We suggest introducing the accreditation system for anti-corruption expertise of legal acts, which is an international practice, in which the expertise is delegated to anti-corruption experts or specialized CSOs, which have passed special accreditation according to the procedure established by the state,” Mariam Zadoyan noted.

With one of the actions, it is planned to establish a unified system of applying measures of responsibility based on the violation of the elements of the integrity system.

“We propose to provide for the definition of measures of responsibility.

by public servants supervising or managing other public servants, including those who are superior or direct managers, as well as by other officials responsible for the maintenance of integrity in general, by other public servants of the elements of the integrity system: for non-fulfillment or incomplete fulfillment of their assigned powers related to situational conflict of interest, restrictions of gift-acceptance, incompatibility requirements and violations of the rules for compliance with other restrictions,

in case of disciplinary liability in relation to a number of offenses, definition of a clear measure of disciplinary liability to be applied,

definition of measures of administrative responsibility of a material nature within the framework of a unified approach,” she said.

In addition, the expert suggests establishing a body responsible for ensuring protection of whistleblowers, in accordance with OECD standards, which

performs function(s) aimed exclusively at the protection of whistleblowers and does not perform other duties,

which has the supervisory function of receiving and examining complaints regarding cases of retaliation (harmful actions) against whistleblowers, as well as cases of failure to properly process reports submitted by external and internal reporting methods and violations of other requirements of whistleblower protection legislation,

has the right to apply measures of liability or other measures to protect whistleblowers from retaliation (harmful actions) or to initiate their application in case of detection of a violation by a state or local self-government body, their official or organization,

Also discuss such a comprehensive model, where the activities of the authorized body responsible for the whistleblowing system will include effective mechanisms for coordinating the professional activities of those responsible for whistleblowing, and for exercising control over their activities.

Anti-Corruption Expert Syuzanna Soghomonyan referred to 2 more goals included in the draft strategy. They are:

Anti-corruption education and public awareness, Improving the anti-corruption monitoring and evaluation system.

According to the expert, Section I of the structure is dedicated to the current situation of the Anti-Corruption Policy. Contrary to the title, the preface of the section does not assess the current situation; it does not objectively reflect the real picture of anti-corruption activities in the RA and is limited to declarative sentences. The process of drafting the strategy and action plan was also not included in the draft.

Syuzanna Soghomonyan also referred to the structures of the improvement of public awareness. She mentioned that it is not acceptable when the main group of challenges, problems and omissions, due to which these works did not provide the desired and significant result, are not presented and there is no analysis of the lessons learned during the development of this strategic direction, which would be the basis for the strategic direction and the actions resulting from it.

“We propose to rewrite the content of the mentioned strategic direction and present the main challenges, problems and gaps in the field of public awareness that emerged during the implementation and evaluation of the fourth strategy, and also as a result of the monitoring (findings) made by specialized CSOs, emphasizing also the importance of changing the culture of the public regarding the whistleblowing system and the commitment of the Government in that regard, and placing the approach to solving these problems at the basis of this direction,” the expert noted.

Further, the participants made speeches and presented their observations on the draft strategy.< The recommendations made as a result of the discussion will be collected and presented to the Ministry of Justice.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][photostream images="12979,12986,12985,12984,12983,12982,12981,12980" images_loop="1" hover_icons="1"][/vc_column][/vc_row]

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