A body representing the National Anti-Corruption Council issued a statement on January 13, 2020, alleging that the Minister of Justice Rustam Badasyan has had an apparent violation in regards to conflict of interests. The Fact Investigation Platform, however, found that there was no breach of law in the story described.
The National Anti-Corruption Council (NAC) Foundation announced the following: “… a person affiliated with the Minister of Justice (his spouse Tatevik Sargsyan), working in the RA NA Staff (expert of NA Vice Speaker), simultaneously held a leading position in a trading company, thus, in addition to the salary received from the NA staff, received remuneration from the mentioned trading company as well.”
In addition, the council also noted that Tatevik Sargsyan was appointed an expert in the office of the NA Vice Speaker without competition. The Foundation also claims that the company headed by Tatevik Sargsyan “is engaged in commercial activities related to the management and coordination of the RA Minister of Justice”.
The Council also noted that the actions of the Minister of Justice had caused a conflict of interest prohibited by Article 33 of the Civil Service Act.
The “conclusion” of the National Anti-Corruption Council, which was presented as a preliminary study, has been circulated on a number of websites, such as News.am, Tert.am, hraparak.am and others.
Co-founder of the Legal Way NGO, human rights activist Ruben Melikyan also touched upon the topic.
“Rustam Badasyan has raised the flag of fight against corruption, therefore, his behavior in this regard should be spotless, but there is actually a violation in regards to his wife’s workplaces.”
The expert of the NA Vice Speaker is appointed without competition
The Fact Investigation Platform tried to find out whether the National Anti-Corruption Council’s conclusion that Rustam Badasyan’s wife was appointed an expert in the National Assembly without a competition is well-founded.
The Law on State Service in the Staff of the National Assembly defines the basic principles of civil service in the National Assembly, and Article 4, paragraph 2 of the Law makes it clear that the law does not apply to persons performing public service and maintenance services in the National Assembly Staff.
In addition, on February 23, 2018, by the order of former NA Speaker Ara Babloyan, the staff list of the National Assembly was approved, according to which the person holding the position of expert of the NA Vice President is a public servant.
That is, the person holding the position of expert of the NA Vice President is not a civil servant and does not apply to the provisions of the Law on State Service referred to by the National Anti-Corruption Council.
In other words, there is no legislative requirement for the expert of the NA Vice Speaker to be appointed through a competition, therefore the claims of the NAC are wrong.
It is noteworthy that although the NAC refers to the decision of the NA Speaker on July 13, 2019 to approve the NA Staff List, Tatevik Sargsyan had not only been appointed an advisor to the NA Vice Speaker before that, but even had left the post 4 days before the mentioned date (on July 9).
Consequently, Tatevik Sargsyan’s appointment to that post is governed by a preceding order signed by NA Speaker Ara Babloyan in 2018.
In addition, the NAC concludes that “the Council at this stage has not found out whether the NA staff had the right to involve an expert at all, let alone do it without a competition,” however, as noted above, this was done by the former NA Speaker Ara Babloyan’s order.
Moreover, if it is against the law, then the former leadership of the National Assembly is to blame. By the way, the founder of the NAC Arsen Babayan was then the Deputy Chief of Staff of the National Assembly.
It should be noted that although in a longer text referred to as a “conclusion” the NAC did not insist on the case of violation of law in the process of Tatevik Sargsyan’s appointment, the narrative version of the same information provided to the mass media included some wordings that may give the reader the impression that Tatevik Sargsyan’s appointment was accompanied by illegalities..
Remuneration is not a violation
The NAC also claims that Tatevik Sargsyan, working as an expert of the NA Vice Speaker, at the same time held a leading position in a commercial company and, simultaneously, received remuneration from both the NA staff and the mentioned company.
Fip.am had earlier referred to this topic and revealed that the employment contract of Tatevik Sargsyan, an expert of the staff of NA Deputy Speaker Lena Nazaryan, had been terminated on July 9, 2019, and that it had been only 2 months that Tatevik Sargsyan worked as an expert in the Office of the Vice President of the National Assembly while being a shareholder in a private company.
Moreover, given that Tatevik Sargsyan performed public service, the prohibition of being a shareholder in a private company and, at the meantime, receiving remuneration elsewhere, did not apply to her, as enshrined in Article 26 of the Law on State Service in the Staff of the National Assembly
In other words, there was no violation of the law by Tatevik Sargsyan here either.
As for the claim of the NAC that Rustam Badasyan’s wife, Tatevik Sargsyan, is engaged in commercial activities that are related to the sphere of administration and coordination carried out by Minister of Justice, it should be noted that this is not a violation of any legal regulation.
It could have been a violation if there was a conflict of interest within the meaning of the Law on Civil Service, which states that a conflict of interest situation is when a person in office performs an action or makes a decision in the exercise of his or her powers that may reasonably be construed as guiding the personal interests of him/her or their affiliate.
The NAC did not refer to any situation in which Rustam Badasyan has acted or made a decision in the exercise of his powers, which could reasonably be interpreted as being in the personal interests of his wife, Tatevik Sargsyan.
For example, such a situation could have been if the company headed by Tatevik Sargsyan had represented someone’s interests in a lawsuit against the Republic of Armenia or the Ministry of Justice. Such a case, however, is not quoted by the NAC, and therefore there is no reason to claim there was a conflict of interest.
Thus, we can state that despite the statements made by the National Anti-Corruption Council as well as the co-founder of the Legal Way NGO Ruben Melikyan, there is no violation of the law in the actions of Rustam Badasyan’s wife Tatevik Sargsyan and the process of being appointed an advisor to the NA Vice Speaker.
By the way, the National Anti-Corruption Council was established in September 2018 by former Deputy Chief of Staff Arsen Babayan.
It should be noted as a reminder that Arsen Babayan has been charged under Articles 38-300 and Article 314, paragraph 1 of the Criminal Code for assisting Ara Babloyan and other officials in assisting in usurping the power of the RA Constitutional Court, as well as for committing official fraud.
ADDITION: Arsen Babayan occupied the position of Head of the Public Relations Department of the National Assembly in February 2018. He became Deputy Chief of Staff of the National Assembly on March 6, 2018.