The lessons learned from the four-day war are many, but the most important is the understanding that corruption first of all is a threat to the national security of our country.
The Anti-Corruption Event “Corruption Risks in Customs Sphere” took place today in Gyumri. Mr. Karen Zadoyan, President of the Armenian Lawyers Association and Coordinator of CSOs’ Anti-Corruption Coalition Secretariat, the members of CSO’s Anti-Corruption Coalition, representatives of the local government bodies and the civil society were present at the meeting.
Zadoyan, President of the Armenian Lawyers’ Association and Coordinator of the Secretariat of the CSO Anti-Corruption Coalition of Armenia, speaking about corruption risks existing in the field, said, “As far as reforms are concerned, we have serious work to do. And when the civil society gets involved in the reform process, the efficiency of the process grows significantly. There are many examples at hand. One of them would be the positive experience we had in the notary system. I would also like to speak about the “fears” of the public sector. We spoke about this in the course of our work with the notary system, too. When we proposed to conduct a monitoring they refused to allow us to start it at the very last moment. However, we managed to do it at length and revealed big corruption risks, as a result.”
Ms. Naira Gyulnazaryan, the Coordinator of Anti-Corruption Projects at the OSCE Office in Yerevan, introduced the OSCE activities in this sphere and highlighted the “Multi-Faceted Anti-Corruption Promotion” Project. “Last year we decided to introduce a new direction and launch an anti-corruption project with the private sector, attaching importance to this sector and understanding that it might become the moving force that will fight against corruption using its potential. Last year we laid the foundation and started quite a successful project. This year we decided to continue it and carry out the project in thematic format, trying to find specific solutions to specific problems.”
There are corruption risks in the sphere of state revenue collection; however the Committee is fighting against it. Mr. Karen Manukyan, the Chief of Shirak Regional Customs House, assured during the meeting. “Corruption is a morbid phenomenon. Corruption is a universal phenomenon, an evil for the society. Any public official, finding himself/herself in such a situation, becomes infected with this disease. I do not think that there is a sick person who doesn’t want to recover,” the Chief of the Customs House said.
“Our work has shown that progress in the fight against corruption can be reported only when the members of
civil society are active,” Mr. Gevorg Poghosyan, Head of Business Support Office-Armenia at European Bank for Reconstruction and Development said.
According to him, there are problems with corruption in every area of the business environment. “Corruption issues can be classified into two parts: One stems from unclear legislation, and there is a lot of work to do. And the second is how this legislation is applied. During the elaboration process of legislation the businesses should have an important role and NGOs should be mandatory party during this process. Today this is provided in the law, but unfortunately only on paper,” stressed the speaker.
Mr. Hakob Avagyan, the President of the SME Cooperation Association, and Mr. Samson Grigoryan, the Vice-President of the same organization, spoke about the corruption risks in customs sphere and challenges of overcoming them. The speakers noted the issue of the application of the method of “transaction cost” as problematic and the key issue. The fact that the customs authorities do not apply the “transaction price” method in determining the customs value but are guided by the so-called “reference prices” undermine the development of our economy, direct hindering the local producers and the traders who make small imports. On their proposal it was decided to make the legislative issue of applying the “transaction price” method a matter of a separate discussion.
Mr. Carl Ulbricht, the International Expert of “Multi-Faceted Anti-Corruption Promotion” project spoke about the “International Practice of Application of Effective Mechanisms in tackling Corruption in the Customs Sphere.”
According to him, the general policy in the field of fight against anti-corruption should be carried out in the following directions: protection of whistleblowers, criminalization of illicit enrichment, high profile prosecutions (preventive effect), and anti-corruption education.
He spoke about the experience of the neighboring Georgia as an example of international experience. According to the international expert, in this country absolute intolerance against corruption has been displayed in this country, a mechanism of collective responsibility have been introduced, strict attitude was adopted towards the importers and exporters, etc.
Mariam Zadoyan, a member of the Armenian Lawyers’ Association, referred to the importance and prospects of cooperation with CSOs for implementation of anti-corruption reforms in the Customs Sphere.
In her opinion, it is necessary to establish review committees, which will bring all stakeholders together: representatives of the executive, the judiciary, the legislature, and the civil servants from the key departments, such as customs, procurement, revenue collection and local government. In addition to the government representatives there should be representatives from the civil society, business, and mass media. This is evidenced by international experience as well.
The expert referred to the institute of the reporting persons: the “Whistleblowing” institute. “This is one of the best ways to fight corruption. In any sphere, including the customs, the introduction of the mechanism for the protection of the reporting persons has an important role. It is provided in Article 33 of the UN Convention against Corruption, and the Criminal Law Convention on Corruption,” Mariam Zadoyan said.:
The Anti-Corruption Event was organized in the scope of the “Multi-Faceted Anti-Corruption Promotion” Project with the financial support of the European Union and co-financed by the OSCE Yerevan Office.