Recently there have been publications in media on the problems related to the possible conflict of interest between Prime Minister Karen Karapetyan and his son-in-law Hayk Harutyunyan, the Deputy Minister of Energy Infrastructures and Natural Resources.
We tried to elaborate on this matter with Karen Zadoyan, the President of the Armenian Lawyers’ Association and the Coordinator of the Secretariat of the CSO Anti-Corruption Coalition.
In his interview to Iravaban․net, Mr. Zadoyan noted, “Guided by what is accepted in the entire civilized world, we suggest that high-ranking officials submit declarations of competing interests in Armenia as well. Two forms of high-ranking officials’ competing interests are differentiated in the international practice. The first one is the general conflict of interest which occurs when upon assuming a post the high-ranking official submits a declaration having mentioned there all the possible subjects, related persons, who he/she might have relations with during his/her time in the office. The second type is the situational, ad-hoc, conflict of interest. For example, this can happen when a person assumes a position while his/her related person already works in the same agency. In this case the person submits a second declaration on the problems of situational conflict of interest.”
Mr. Zadoyan believes that in the second case the problem must be viewed from two points. The first one would be whether these two officials are related persons under the existing legislation or not (Note: The RA Law on Public Service defines a quite narrow scope of related persons). The second viewpoint is, as follows: Does the related person work under the immediate supervision of the high-ranking official? If yes, then the related person’s position must be changed with the aim of excluding the possibility of competing interests. In any case, the two above-mentioned declarations serve as grounds for the competent bodies to carry out research, reveal cases of competing interests if such exist and apply respective liability measures, if necessary.
“As for the publication in the media, I would say that even though both the Prime Minister and his son-in-law are high-ranking officials, according to the Law on Public Service the PM’s son-in-law is not regarded as a related person. Even if he were regarded as one, we still do not deal here with a case of immediate subordination as the Deputy Minister of Energy Infrastructures and Natural Resources does not directly report to the Prime Minister; the Minister does. Thus, under the existing legal regulations there is no case of competing interests here,” noted Karen Zadoyan.
He also added that the CSO Anti-Corruption Coalition of Armenia encourages the Government to enlarge the scope of high-ranking officials’ related persons in the new anti-corruption legislation reforms package, as well as to stipulate there that high-ranking officials submit conflict of interest declarations immediately upon assuming a post.