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Armenian PM Accuses Transport Ministry Of Corruption

Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisian called for an end to bribery in the construction sector.
YEREVAN -- Armenian Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisian has accused the Transport Ministry of corruption in its use of road funds, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reports.

Sarkisian said the ministry inflated the costs for the reconstruction of rural roads and misused money appropriated to fix those roads. He added that the government's oversight agency estimated that the road reconstruction project should have cost $13 million, while the Transport Ministry estimated the cost at $17 million.

Sarkisian said the Finance Ministry closely monitored the government-funded road work and found "numerous" abuses. He said that the “tradition” of bribery in the construction sector should be eliminated, and he ordered Transport Minister Gurgen Sarkisian (no relation) to oversee the process.

Gurgen Sarkisian told RFE/RL that his ministry calculated the higher cost based on quality standards set by the U.S. government's Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC). He said the price can be reduced only by not following the rigorous construction requirements prescribed by the MCC.

The government earmarked $17 million in July 2008 for the road reconstruction after the MCC cancelled its involvement in the project, citing Armenia's poor human rights and democracy record.

Armenia has received two World Bank loans worth more than $55 million this year to help mitigate the impact of the global financial recession on the economy.