YEREVAN (Noyan Tapan–RFE/RL)–The Armenian Revolutionary Federation’s parliamentary faction is drafting a bill aimed at regulating the functions of the National Assembly’s Supervisory Chamber and providing it with broader powers–the faction’s leader David Lokian announced at a press briefing. He hoped for other parliamentary factions to back the initiative.
Speaking of the report of the parliament’s ad hoc energy commission–Lokian–who was the head of this commission–said that no one can be regarded as a thief or criminal on the grounds of the commission’s findings. "It is the prerogative of the law-enforcement bodies. Our commission was a multi-party body that never pursued political goals despite the attempts of some forces to politicize the commission’s work so that the truth will never be established and those responsible will go unpunished," said Lokian.
The 37-page document publicized in the National Assembly on Wednesday threatens to trigger a major political scandal that would mainly involve the country’s former leadership–including ex-president Levon Ter-Petrosyan. It accuses energy officials and their powerful patrons of appropriating public funds set aside for imports of badly needed energy resources and making procurement deals on highly unfavorable terms.
Armenian Revolutionary Federation Executive Council of Armenia Representative Armen Rustamian–assessing the work of the commission–said: "The amount of crime exposed by the commission is so impressive that it would be naive to think that just a few people could have been behind all this or that these crimes are the result of negligence." Rustamian believes these crimes to have been the result of the anti-national policies of the former ruling regime.
The Interim Commission set up to study the effectiveness of the import of energy sources in 1992-1995–use of the generated energy as well as the use of credits allocated for the development of the energy sector will be summed up and submitted to the president–prime minister and Prosecutor’s Office of Armenia–the representative of the "Right and Unity" parliamentary faction Alexan Karapetian said in a news briefing.
"I am sure that these bodies will take necessary measures–and the people will know what happened in those years and who will bear responsibility for that," Karapetian said. He believes that the most important achievement of the Commission is that "All will know that the atmosphere of impunity in Armenia will be put an end to–and any official will be responsible for what he does or does not."
As to the report of the Supervisory Chamber of the National Assembly–Karapetian finds it necessary that the powers of the Supervisory Chamber be ordered and broadened. "In its report the Supervisory Chamber made public disgraceful facts–but it is nothing but information–as the Chamber does not have any instrumen’s," he said.
Parliament member Alexan Karapetian from the Right and Accord faction told Armenpress that "It is high time the people knew who are responsible for the huge misappropriations of public funds that were set aside for imports of energy resources in early 90s."
He denied the already sounded concerns that the responsible–many of whom still continue occupying senior positions in the government structures–will be called to account and punished in accordance with law.
Meantime he said that the parliament should more closely examine all loan programs implemented in Armenia. He alleged that huge misappropriations were made while implementing a loan program intended for the construction of the 5th unit at Hrazdan Power Plant.
Another member of the faction Hamlet Harutunian warned the current authorities against possible embezzlement saying that sooner or later they all will have to be called to account.
Arthur Baghdasarian–head of the Country of Law party said he was perplexed by the official figure claiming that the 1999 state budget was executed by 93 percent–when "Wages and pensions have not been paid for months. The government has presented another play of figures–whereas no one bears responsibility for budget execution failure," he added.
Baghdasarian also said that following the recent scandal with the Bank of New York–it turned out that around $150 millions of "Armenian origin" are kept in an offshore zone in the Canary Islands.
Baghdasarian also said that his faction’s attempts to include reported cases of misappropriations of loans on the parliament agenda failed because "There is a strong opposition on behalf of certain forces both in the parliament and the government."
A senior energy official criticized on Thursday a parliamentary report which said widespread embezzlement and inefficiency in the energy sector has cost Armenia a total of about $200 million since 1992. Vartan Movsisian–head of the State Committee on Energy–said conclusions made by an ad hoc parliament commission investigating long-standing corruption allegations are "too categorical" and "the tone" of its report unacceptable. Movsisian told RFE/RL that the report can not be deemed trustworthy before it undergoes a thorough "professional and legal examination."
Movsisian–whose agency is responsible for setting electricity tariffs in Armenia–countered that the findings of the six-month parliamentary inquiry can not be considered to be "the final truth."The opposite side must be allowed to come up with its counter-argumen’s," he said.
Much of the alleged embezzlement occurred during the period from 1993-96 when the government was headed by Hrant Bagratian–a close associate of Ter-Petrosyan. Bagratian on Thursday angrily denied the allegations–accusing the current authorities of looking for scapegoats to cover up their own failures.