The Ethics Commission of High-Ranking Officials has instigated only 4 proceedings during its operation and made 8 decisions. The Commission began operation in 2012. Only one of the proceedings was in favor of the applicant. Two proceedings considered by the Commission were based on the applications of non-governmental organizations, 1 on the application of a citizen, and 1 by the initiative of the Commission.
Siranush Sahakyan is the President of the Ethics Commission of High-Ranking Officials. The Commission has three members: Armen Khudaverdyan, Artak Sargsyan, and Lilit Petrosyan. Areg Shushanyan was a member of the Commission as well, but on 17 October, 2014 he was relieved of his authorities by the order of the RA President Serzh Sargsyan. This position is still empty.
The Commission informed iravaban.net that the activity of this body is transparent and the decisions are published on its official website. During its activities the Commission has adopted an opinion on violation of ethical norms as well.
In 2013, the Commission brought a proceeding on the basis of the application of Artur Sakunts, the head of Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly Vanadzor office, about the violation of ethical standards by the head of Vanadzor Community Samvel Darbinyan and subjecting him to a disciplinary penalty.
Samvel Darbinyan, the Mayor of Vanadzor City, clarifying the failure of the chairman of the Republican Party of Armenian Serzh Sargsyan in the elections in the third city of the country, mentioned: “It was not the failure of our leader; it was the unconscious behaviour of our people; they did not understand what they did”. The Commission decided that the action chain of Samvel Karapetyan was in the scope of ethical norms.
The next application was submitted by Varuzhan Hoktanyan, Executive Director of Transparency International Anticorruption Centre (TIAC), referring to the property of Gagik Khachatryan, who was Chairman of the State Revenue Committee in 2013. Citing different media sources, the Executive Director of the NGO mentioned that a number of businesses and trade malls belong to G. Khachatryan. Mr. Hoktanyan asked to clarify whether or not there was a conflict of interests. The Commission applied to Gagik Khachatryan, received explanations, and concluded that the study of the cited documents in those publications was not sufficient to find that Gagik Khachatryan, the Chairman of the State Revenue Committee, was in a conflict of interests situation with regard to the mentioned businesses.
In 2013, Varuzhan Hoktanyan again applied to the Commission, this time referring to a conflict of interests of the Mayor of Yerevan City, Taron Margaryan, in connection with the rise of urban transport passenger fares. The Commission again initiated a proceeding and found that there was no conflict of interests.
In 2014 the Commission initiated only one proceeding, this time in respect of the behaviour of the RA Ex-Minister of Nature Protection, Aram Harutyunyan. The latter had threatened an activist, saying: «Know your limits, or I will cut your ears». This was the only time where the Commission made a decision in favour of the applicant, and found that the official had violated ethical rules.
And this Commission was supposed to prevent corruption
“In fact, the results of the Commission’s activities should become criteria for changing some basic things in the prevention of corruption, for better opportunities to fight against corruption, as well as for changing social approaches and behaviour toward the fight against corruption”, these are the words of the RA President Serzh Sargsyan during the meeting with the members of the Commission in 2012.
Only one report about prevention of corruption during the three years of the Commission operation may be recalled, but it is not an analysis about the state of corruption, the preventative steps, but merely a report about a study visit (see the photo).
The declarations on property of the officials are included in the operation of the Commission. However, they are not updated on regular basis, and there is even some information that has not been updated since 2013.
The Commission informed us by letter that the percentage of submitted declarations is high, and in 2013 it totaled 99%. The letter states that the declarations submitted to the Commission had not indicated the presence of any crime, and the results of the Commission’s proceedings had not revealed any information containing criminal elements, and therefore such materials had not been sent to the RA Prosecutor General’s Office.
The Commission informs that they have conducted “a multi-level and phased” analysis of the declarations.
We were interested in how many cases of conflict of interests of high-ranking officials the Commission had revealed during its operation and how many suggestions on prevention and elimination of corruption it had presented to the RA President, National Assembly and Government since its establishment. The reply from the Commission states that the system of declaration of interests as a main instrument for revealing conflicts of interests has not yet been implemented in the RA. According to the letter the Commission refers to cases of conflicts of interests on the basis of applications and in the scope of current legal regulations. There hadn’t been any applications about conflicts of interests, according to the letter. So the Committee adds that recommendations for their “prevention and elimination” could not be presented to the corresponding bodies.
The Commission also informed that they conduct “comprehensive studies of existing problems, as well as research and analysis, including international best practice, legislative gaps, and possible solutions about issues which are in the Commission’s scope. The corresponding reports about the Commission’s activity that are subject to publication are posted on the website”.
It emerges that, according to the Commission, there are indeed reports that are not for publication, and only the reports about two seminars and one study visit have been posted in the corresponding section of the website.
By the way, in the course of one such visit, the entire staff of the Commission was out of the country for 5 working days (see the photos). During that period did anybody feel the need for this body?