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Armenian Ministers Make 'Radical' Anti-Graft Proposals To PM

Armenian Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisian
Armenian Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisian
YEREVAN -- Armenian Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisian says he has received "radical" reform proposals from the agriculture, finance, education, and health ministers in response to his harsh criticism of corruption in their ministries, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reports.

Sarkisian at a cabinet session two weeks ago criticized the four ministers and instructed them to come up with plans to remedy the situation. He also demanded the dismissal of high-ranking officials in their ministries who he said were responsible for corruption or mismanagement.

At least four such officials, including two deputy health ministers, have since resigned. None of them apparently risks criminal prosecution, a fact that has raised questions about the real motives of Sarkisian's actions.

Sarkisian on November 18 praised the proposals submitted to him by the four ministers.

"In essence, dear colleagues, radical solutions are proposed with these documents," he told the cabinet. "After getting feedback from the society, we need to rapidly implement those programs."

Sarkisian added that more staff changes should be expected in the agencies soon.

Agriculture Minister Gerasim Alaverdian told RFE/RL that he is determined to ensure the dismissal of Vram Gyulzadian, head of an Agriculture Ministry department dealing with food safety. Alaverdian's ministry last week formally asked the Civil Service Council to sanction the dismissal.

There have been no sackings yet within the Education Ministry.

"The prime minister didn't speak of corruption within our ministry, the prime minister spoke of corruption in the education system," Education Minister Armen Ashotian said as he unveiled his 16-point reform plan after the cabinet meeting.

Ashotian said the set of legislative and administrative measures will "drastically reduce corruption risks" in public education in the next two years. In particular, he wants his ministry to have greater authority over schools and universities, which he said are the hotbeds of corrupt practices affecting the sector.

Ashotian's plan also calls for a stricter ban on cash payments demanded by school principals from students' parents, ostensibly for school needs, and would expand the powers of university councils overseeing rectors.