Armenia’s Diaspora Minister Mkhitar Hayrapetyan on Tuesday announced that his ministry will postpone several upcoming programs, among them the “Ari Toun—Come Home” program, citing waste of expenditures by the previous administration headed by Hranush Hakopyan.
Speaking to reporters, Hayrapetyan said that the ministry’s “Summer School” and the “My Armenia” festival will also be impacted by the decision.
He explained that while reviewing the programs costs and expenditures ahead of the June 17 start of the “Ari Toun” program, the ministry had notices excessive spending, as well as a pattern of awarding contracts to the same companies or service providers without issuing requests for proposals (RFP) to ensure competitiveness.
Hayrapetyan said that the matter has been referred to Davit Sanasaryan, the head of the new oversight agency, which will audit the ministry’s accounts and expenditures. The Diaspora Ministry, Hayrapetyan said, will publish the audit results, as well as names of individuals who have excessively benefitted from these contracts.
The minister cited the audit as the reason for the decision to postpone the programs, knowing full well the impact the decision might have on participants who have already made travel arrangements to attend the programs. He said the need to rid the process of corruption and exercise transparency was of utmost importance, saying that the decision to postpone will also benefit the participants of the programs.
The same sentiment was echoed by Deputy Diaspora Minister Babken DerGrigorian who told Asbarez on Tuesday in a phone interview conducted via Facebook Messenger that the ministry’s main accountability was to the Armenian tax payer.
“First of all we have to be accountable to the Armenian tax payer. Period,” DerGrigorian told Asbarez. There is no ideal solution to this, but under this new government we have to maintain our accountability in an unprecedented manner to the Armenian tax payer. “
“The programs are not being canceled. The dates are being changed to address these corruption risks. In the coming days we are going to announce new dates and new format for these programs,” explained DerGrigorian, who said the ministry fully understands that the decision has caused concern for Diasporans who have already made travel arrangement.
“In general, our relationship with the Diaspora has to grow in intensity and substance. Any program that we conduct with the taxpayer money needs to support a long-term vision of repatriation and we will be working in that direction,” said DerGrigorian.
“We have to draw a red line over the old way of governing and part of that red line has to do with maintaining full accountability to the Armenian citizen and the Armenian tax payer,” asserted DerGrigorian.