Corruption in Armenia exists at different levels of governance and is a major factor in relations with government bodies and business regulation. According to Transparency International, Armenia improved its index of corruption perception in 2012 but the level of corruption still remains high, placing the country at 105th out of 176 countries surveyed. “Despite legislative revisions in relation to elections and party financing,” the report states, “corruption either persists or has re-emerged in new forms.”
The main anti-corruption institutions of the Armenian government are an Anti-Corruption Council (headed by the Prime Minister) and the Anti-Corruption Strategy Monitoring Commission, which was established in 2004 to strengthen the implementation of anti-corruption policy. To function efficiently, these anti-corruption institutions should: 1. be apolitical/nonpartisan, 2. not be a political office, 3. involve Transparency International.
The government adopted an Anti-Corruption Strategy and Implementation Action Plan in 2003, focusing on organizational and legal tools to combat corruption in areas such as banking, taxation, customs, health care, education, environment, licensing, public procurement, public administration, and the judiciary system. The government has since revised the strategy, and the existing Anti-Corruption Strategy 2009-2012 focuses on the implementation of existing laws, particularly taxation and customs services (which are considered to be most affected by corruption). Other priorities include improvement of legislation and infrastructure to combat money laundering, increased transparency in the public sector, and enhancement of accountability in all branches of government. In 2008, Armenia’s Criminal Code was amended to provide better mechanisms for combating corruption. In 2011, some measures to combat corruption were carried out in several state ministries and agencies: revised procedures were introduced for obtaining drivers’ licenses, passports, and business registration in order to discourage the acquisition of such documents through bribery.
However, these anti-corruption efforts are not proving sufficient or effective. While the reforms are achieving significant improvements, according to the Council of Europe Group of States Against Corruption (GRECO) Evaluation Report on Incriminations 2011, legal provisions should be further amended to comply with the Council of Europe’s Criminal Law Convention on Corruption. This would enable Armenia to prosecute requests for bribes as well as all corruption offenses committed by citizens abroad. Nevertheless, in recent years the number of high-ranking officials arrested and convicted on charges of bribery and corruption in Armenia has increased. Prime Minister Sargsyan initiated a series of top-level dismissals in November 2011, focusing on the ministries of agriculture, finance, education and health.
The strong links between the government and business within the Armenian governance system do not allow the government to be independent. By law, government officials are banned from engaging in business activities, but in practice they often have extensive business interests and many parliamentary deputies and state officials run companies on the side.
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