YEREVAN (RFE/RL)—The Armenian government plans to set up a new agency that will be tasked with preventing and combating corruption, Prime Minister Karen Karapetian told a senior European Union diplomat on Tuesday.
Karapetian met with Piotr Switalski, head of the EU Delegation in Yerevan, to discuss his cabinet’s anti-corruption efforts.
“Talking about future plans, the Prime Minister said a new legislative package has been developed to create an independent preventive anti-corruption authority based on the terms of reference of the State Commission for the Ethics of High-Ranking Officials,” the government’s press office said in a statement.
“The new package implies full revision of the existing mechanisms for income declaration and conflicts of interest,” it said. “Work is also underway to improve the quality of investigation of corruption offenses.”
The statement did not specify what powers the new government body will have.
The commission mentioned by Karapetian receives income and asset declarations from Armenia’s 600 most high-ranking state officials, including ministers and judges. It has until now lacked the legal authority to check the veracity of those statements questioned by anti-corruption activists and media.
The U.S. ambassador to Armenia, Richard Mills, suggested last week that the government set up a “fully independent anti-corruption body that can both investigate and prosecute cases.” “This seems a good time for the government to consider this suggestion, as we understand the prime minister is currently deciding how to restructure the existing Anti-Corruption Council,” Mills said in a speech.
The advisory council, whose members include civil society representatives, was previously overseen by Karapetian’s predecessor, Hovik Abrahamian.
Karapetian said on Tuesday that “based on discussions held by the Anti-Corruption Council” the government is now drafting “important bills aimed at reducing corruption risks in all spheres of public life.” The government is “open” to relevant proposals from EU officials, he added, according to the statement.
Armenia ranked, together with Bolivia and Vietnam, 113th out of 176 countries evaluated in Transparency International’s most recent Corruption Perceptions Index released last month. In its policy program approved by parliament in October, Karapetian’s cabinet described corruption as “the biggest obstacle to the development of the state.”