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Armenia's Government Rattled By Abuse Charge

Armenia -- Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisian (right) with Agriculture Minister Gerasim Alaverdian
YEREVAN -- Armenian Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisian has publicly criticized his agriculture minister over what he called serious misuse of government funds by senior ministry officials, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reports.

Speaking at a weekly cabinet meeting today, Sarkisian said a financial inspection of ministry records conducted by the Armenian Parliament's Audit Chamber last year showed that the ministry purchased cattle medication for farms across the country from a private supplier at a grossly inflated price.

Sarkisian claimed that two senior Agriculture Ministry officials in charge of procurements have continued to ensure that supply tenders are won by the same company. He implied that they did so for personal gain and has ordered Agriculture Minister Gerasim Alaverdian to ask the state body that oversees Armenia's civil service to approve their dismissal.

Sarkisian said he is issuing a "strict reprimand" to Alaverdian because of the latter's failure to "perform his duties properly."

Alaverdian is affiliated with the Prosperous Armenia Party, a junior partner in the governing coalition. He was named agriculture minister in May 2009.