(Mar. 24, 2014) On March 6, 2014, the Armenian Cabinet of Ministers approved amendments to the nation’s Law on the Control Chamber, drafted by the Ministry of Justice. These amendments will be proposed to the National Assembly (the parliament) on the Cabinet’s legal initiative. (Press Release, Attracting Investment Seen as a Government Priority (Mar. 6, 2014), Armenian government website.)
The Control Chamber is charged in the Constitution with oversight of the budget and of state and community property. (Constitution of Armenia, July 5, 1995, art. 83.4, National Assembly website.) Under the proposed amendment, the Control Chamber would not be allowed to express political views related to its findings or publicly discuss the outcomes of conducted audits and inspections and their possible legal consequences. Presently, the Law on the Control Chamber requires that all suspicious violations discovered during its activities be reported to the Prosecutor General’s office. (Law of the Republic of Armenia on the Control Chamber of the Republic of Armenia [in Armenian], art. 6.4, Control Chamber website.)
The proposed amendments were initiated because of the Control Chamber report on the execution of the budget for the fiscal year 2012, which was released last year, and related statements of the Control Chamber’s Chairman made at the National Assembly, in which he accused the executive branch of government of misusing more than 70% of the budget through waste, mismanagement, and corruption. (Press Release, Third Session of the Fifth Convocation of the National Assembly Ends (June 13, 2013), National Assembly website.)
In response, the Government called those accusations baseless, and the Armenian President, Serzh Sargsyan, condemned the Control Chamber’s Chairman for making political statements. According to the President, the Control Chamber should stay out of politics and remain an oversight agency, letting law enforcement authorities decide on the legal consequences of the facts discovered by the Control Chamber; this approach, in his view, accords with Constitution. (Press Release, President Serzh Sargsyan Held a Meeting on the Issues Related to the Efficient Administration of the Budgetary Funds and Reduction of Corruption Risks (June 29, 2013), President of the Republic of Armenia website.)
Members of parliament in opposition to the ruling party see the proposed amendments as limiting the independence of the Control Chamber. (Siranuysh Gevorgyan, No Longer Independent? Opposition Sceptical About Reelected Control Chamber’s Head Integrity After Castigation from President, ARMENIA NOW, (Nov. 13, 2013).)
Prepared by Gabriel Balayan, visiting Fulbright Scholar, under the supervision of Peter Roudik, Director of Legal Research.