The Speaker of the National Assembly, Alen Simonyan, said at a briefing with journalists that he does not see any risk of corruption in the fact the companies led by his brother have won the asphalting tender. He clarified that his brother is not the owner, but is the director.
Media.am decided to find out which manifestations of corruption are the definition of conflict of interests and nepotism.
How does the NA Speaker respond to the revelation of his brother winning the road construction tenders?
During the October 12 briefing in the National Assembly, a Factor TV journalist asked NA Speaker Alen Simonyan about his brother being the director of the asphalt factory which won the tenders (in the video from 12:12). In response, Simonyan said, “I do not answer yellow questions from the yellow press.” Then he clarified, “those people who write [these things], are just busy creating an article using the name Alen Simonyan,” “people are tired of those speculations, kitchen conversations,” “this is a fabricated topic.”
Simonyan added that the organization headed by his brother had participated in more than 40 competitions to win by law. He ruled out the risk of corruption. He explained that his brother works as a director in the organization and is not the owner․ “My brother’s property will neither increase nor decrease by that profited amount.” He suggested conducting an investigation to see if there is a circumstance of corruption. For example, a better price was offered, but preference was given to an organization run by his brother.”
He urged journalists to pay attention to tangible things.
The NA President calls the revelation of the authoritative websites of Armenia as yellow press and kitchen talk
CivilNet and Hetq.am revealed the companies headed by Alen Simonyan’s brother that won major tenders. These are some of the most authoritative and reliable media in Armenia, which cannot be associated with the yellow press.
On August 26, CivilNet wrote that Alen Simonyan’s brother is the director-deputy director of three organizations. On June 17, 2021, “EuroAsphalt” CJSC signed a 368 million AMD contract with the Ministry of Territorial Administration and Infrastructure for the repair of the Horom-Artik-Alagyaz national highway in the Shirak region.
And “TS Construction” is engaged in the production of concrete. The “Fact-checking platform” referred to the company’s activities. It has received a water use permit for industrial purposes for three years in the Shengavit administrative district of Yerevan. In 2020, the concrete company, whose director is Arsen Mikayelyan, a fellow villager of Minister of Territorial Administration and Infrastructure Gnel Sanosyan, donated 5 million AMD to the “Civil Contract” party.
On September 21, the investigation website hetq.am also wrote about winning tenders of the company headed by Karlen Simonyan. According to the website, the asphalting work in Aparan and nearby villages will be carried out by “EuroAsphalt” CJSC headed by Karlen Simonyan. The total price of the contract is 287 million AMD.
This company was founded on March 18, 2020, and Simonyan became the general director in July. Its shareholders are as follows: Svetlana Kamo Poghosyan at 90% from Yerevan, and the remaining 10% – Lusik Shaheni Gevorgyan, a resident of Novosibirsk, Russia. The CJSC submitted 16 applications, 2 of which were recognized as winners.
What is the risk of corruption?
Although NA Speaker Alen Simonyan does not see a problem in this story, civil society has a different point of view. In a conversation with Azatutyun TV, Artur Sakunts, the chairman of the Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly Vanadzor office, said, “It is obvious that there is at least a conflict of interest here.” According to him, this reality “already speaks about corruption risks, and it must definitely be examined.”
And Varuzhan Hoktanyan, an expert at the Transparency International Anti-Corruption Center, said that the success of people affiliated with officials in competitions has always raised doubts, and at least the question of how competitive the process was and how it should be examined further.
Transparency International, one of the world’s leading anti-corruption organizations, has compiled a dictionary of various manifestations of corruption. According to this international organization:
CONFLICT OF INTEREST is the situation when the individual or the institution where one works, be it government, business, media or civil society, faces, on the one hand, the responsibilities and demands arising from the position, and on the other hand, the choice of private personal interests of that individual.
NEPOTISM is a form of bias based on acquaintances and family ties when an official abuses his or her authority and power to provide employment or service to a family member, relative, or friend, regardless of whether the latter does not have the appropriate qualifications or eligibility.
And the RA Law on Public Services stipulates, “Conflict of interests is a situation when a person holding a position performs an action or makes a decision while exercising his/her powers, which can be reasonably interpreted as being guided by his/her personal interests or those of a person affiliated with him/her.”
It turns out that Alen Simonyan’s description of the “yellow press” “kitchen conversations” refers to the revelations of the journalistic investigation of the websites that have a reputation in the Armenian media field.
Simonyan, as a representative of the government, sees no problem with the company led by his brother winning the tenders, but the representatives of civil society see an opportunity for additional examination.