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Armenia

Open Data in Official Declarations (AM0035)

Overview

At-a-Glance

Action Plan: Armenia Action Plan 2018-2020

Action Plan Cycle: 2018

Status: Active

Institutions

Lead Institution: Commission on Ethics of High-Ranking Officials /Commission for Prevention of Corruption/

Support Institution(s): Staff of the Prime Minister of the Republic of Armenia, Ministry of Territorial Administration and Development of the Republic of Armenia, Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Armenia "Transparency International" NGO (upon consent), CSO Anti-Corruption Coalition of Armenia (upon consent), ““Asparez” Journalists’ Club” NGO (upon consent)

Policy Areas

Access to Information, Anti-Corruption, Asset Disclosure, E-Government, Legislation & Regulation, Legislative, Open Data

IRM Review

IRM Report: Armenia Design Report 2018-2020

Starred: Pending IRM Review

Early Results: Pending IRM Review

Design i

Verifiable: Yes

Relevant to OGP Values: Access to Information , Public Accountability , Technology

Potential Impact:

Implementation i

Completion:

Description

1. “Open data” in official declarations: Improving the electronic system of declarations on property, income and affiliated persons of high-ranking officials
Commitment Start and End Date Commitment Start: December 2018
Commitment End: August 2020
Lead implementing agency Commission on Ethics of High-Ranking Officials /Commission for Prevention of Corruption/
Person responsible from lead implementing agency Armen Khudaverdyan
Title, Department Deputy Chairperson of the Commission on Ethics of High-Ranking Officials
Email: info@ethics.amPhone (+37410)524689
Other actors involved Other state actors involved Staff of the Prime Minister of the Republic of Armenia, Ministry of Territorial Administration and Development of the Republic of Armenia, Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Armenia
Civil society, private sector "Transparency International" NGO (upon consent), CSO Anti-Corruption Coalition of Armenia (upon consent), ““Asparez” Journalists’ Club” NGO (upon consent)
Issues subject to regulation Although reforms in the system of declarations (property, income and affiliated persons of high-ranking officials) are continuous, there are still several problems that exist in the sector.
In particular, the property and revenues of the heads and councils of elders of the communities of the Republic of Armenia are not known to the public, except for the property and revenues of the heads of communities with a population of 15,000 and more. At the same time, there are several indications in regard to the issue of conflict of interests of officials and members of councils of elders possessing funds from community budgets.
The scope of property subject to declaration, pursuant to the Law of the Republic of Armenia “On public service”, is limited. In accordance with the specified law, declarants shall, among other properties, are obliged to only declare any expensive property with a value of more than AMD 8 million or more than the foreign currency equivalent thereto. The threshold value is very high, and due to this, the scope of property subject to declaration is not inclusive.
Based on the current legal regulations, gifts in the form of immovable, movable and expensive property, as well as gifts received in the form of money are subject to declaration. For the most part, the scope of data subject to declaration (content of declarations) does not provide the opportunity to reveal the relationship between the donor and the declarant. At the same time, in accordance with Decision of the Government of the Republic of Armenia No 1835-N of 15 December 2011, the data regarding the donor shall not be subject to publication. There is a problem regarding the protection of the data of a third party. As a result, this leads to various doubts and commentaries from the public. Meanwhile, if the data regarding the name, last name of the donor, as well as the relationship of the latter to the declarant are accessible to the public, the above-mentioned doubts on conflicts of interests will be dispelled. In this regard, although in accordance with the Law of the Republic of Armenia HO-206-N of 23 March 2018 "On public service", data on persons related to the declarant official through close kinship or in-law relationship: name, last name, father’s name, day, month, year of birth, relationship to the declarant official are also envisaged as general data subject to be included in a declaration; however, deciding on the issue of identifying (revealing the relationship to the declarant) the subjects (relative, godfather and others) beyond the scope of the above-mentioned persons as a donator, first and foremost implies revision of the content of a declaration. Besides, in regard to protection of personal data of a third party donor, publication of the declared data in regard to his or her name implies specification of the relevant regulations stipulated by the Law of the Republic of Armenia “On personal data protection”.
In the "Registry of Declarations" section of the website of the Commission, the search for declarations is carried out based on the following search characteristics of the official — "Name, Surname", "Position" and "Year". The “Registry of Declarations” is not accessible to users yet in terms of selection of the relevant data in the declarations according to a specific characteristic.

Main objective Ensure transparency of data subject to declaration.
Brief Description of Commitment 1. Ongoing enlargement of the scope of declarants (members of councils of elders and secretaries of staffs of communities with populations of 15,000 and more).
2. Revision of content of declarations, including in regard to reduction of the threshold value of expensive property subject to declaration and identification of persons not affiliated to the declarant official through close kinship or in-law relationship as donators (revelation of relationship to the declarant).
3. Enlargement of the list of data of declarations subject to publication.
OGP challenge addressed by the commitment Enhancement of public integrity
Relevance to OGP values Transparency, accountability, technology
Ambition By introducing the declarations registry interactive (searchable and user friendly) instrument, the Commission expects to receive from the interested groups of civil society more substantiated recommendations and applications in relation to alleged violations by declarant persons of the requirements set under the Law of the Republic of Armenia “On public service”. The number of applications submitted (through publications or by other means) to the Commission by interested groups of civil society is expected to grow as a result of the aforementioned, as well as legislative amendments. At the same time, it is expected to ensure rise of the level of accountability of declarant officials and increase confidence in them.
Promotes efforts for implementation of SDG Goals or Targets 16.6 develop effective, accountable and transparent institutions at all levels

Verifiable and measurable criteria for performance of commitment Start Date: End Date:
Ongoing Actions
Publishing on the website of the Commission information on declarant officials who have not submitted a declaration for 2017-2020 or have submitted a declaration later than the prescribed time limit, the administrative liability measures applied by the Commission. December 2018 As of the end of each year — first quarter of the following year
Elaboration of the draft Law of the Republic of Armenia “On making amendments and supplements to the Law of the Republic of Armenia “On public service”” and submission to the Staff of the Prime Minister in the context of enlargement of the scope of declarants, revision of the content of declarations, including reduction of the threshold value of expensive property subject to declaration and identification (revelation of relationship to a declarant) of persons not affiliated to a declarant official through close kinship or in-law relationship as donators. February 2019 June 2019
Elaboration of the draft on making amendments and supplements to Decision of the Government of the Republic of Armenia No 1835-N of 15 December 2011 and submission to the Staff of the Prime Minister. October 2019 June 2020
Upgrading the search engine of the "Registry of Declarations" section of the Commission’s website at http://www.ethics.am, ensuring its interactive accessibility for users, developing and installing the software June 2019 August 2020

IRM Midterm Status Summary

1. “Open Data” in Official Declarations

Language of the commitment as it appears in the action plan: [1]

Brief description:

  1. Ongoing enlargement of the scope of declarants (members of councils of elders and secretaries of staffs of communities with populations of 15,000 and more).
  2. Revision of content of declarations, including in regard to reduction of the threshold value of expensive property subject to declaration and identification of persons not affiliated to the declarant official through close kinship or in-law relationship as donators (revelation of relationship to the declarant).
  3. Enlargement of the list of data of declarations subject to publication.”

Milestones

1.1 Publishing on the website of the Commission information on declarant officials who have not submitted a declaration for 2017-2020 or have submitted a declaration later than the prescribed time limit, the administrative liability measures applied by the Commission.

1.2 Elaboration of the draft Law of the Republic of Armenia “On making amendments and supplements to the Law of the Republic of Armenia “On public service”” and submission to the Staff of the Prime Minister in the context of enlargement of the scope of declarants, revision of the content of declarations, including reduction of the threshold value of expensive property subject to declaration and identification (revelation of relationship to a declarant) of persons not affiliated to a declarant official through close kinship or in-law relationship as donators.

1.3 Elaboration of the draft on making amendments and supplements to Decision of the Government of the Republic of Armenia No 1835-N of 15 December 2011 and submission to the Staff of the Prime Minister.

1.4 Upgrading the search engine of the "Registry of Declarations" section of the Commission’s website at http://www.ethics.am, ensuring its interactive accessibility for users, developing and installing the software.

Start Date: December 2018

End Date: August 2020

Context and Objectives

Since 2014, asset and income declarations of high-ranking officials and their affiliates have been published on the website of the Commission on Ethics of High-Ranking Officials. [2] Since 2015, Armenia has introduced several measures to expand the scope of information disclosed in these declarations. [3] Legislative amendments passed in 2017 extended the circle of officials subject to declaring income and assets to include not only high-level officials, but also officials employed in senior positions. The amendments also included heads of communities with populations exceeding 15,000. [4]

In the current commitment, civil society organizations proposed to extend the circle of officials who are subject to declaration further, to include municipality staff secretaries and members of councils of elders in large communities. This was due to concerns of possible conflicts of interest of secretaries and councils of elders who may receive funds or incentives through various channels. Some receive funds from the head of the community or through jobs for their close relatives. [5] According to the law, membership in councils is a nonpaid position, but in practice, council members might be subject to specific expectations in return for voting on specific decisions.

This commitment calls for reducing the threshold of the valuable property subject to disclosure. The current threshold—8 million AMD (about 16,500 USD)—is considered too high compared to the average salary of public servants. [6] However, the commitment does not specify the new threshold that will be included in proposed legislative amendments. The amount discussed during meetings was 2-3 million AMD. [7]

Finally, the commitment proposes identification (revelation of relationship to a declarant) of persons who made donations to a declarant official. Current legal regulations stipulate that gifts in the form of immovable, movable, and expensive property—as well as gifts received in the form of money—are subject to declaration. However, according to Decision No. 1835-N, from 15 December 2011, data regarding the donors shall not be subject to publication, for privacy protection. The currently published data does not reveal the relationship between the donor and the declarant or whether the gift contains corruption risks. Meanwhile, if the donor’s name, as well as the relationship of the donor to the declarant, is accessible to the public, it could reduce the above-mentioned doubts regarding conflicts of interest. [8]

This commitment also continues the third action plan’s commitment on publishing the list of officials who did not provide declaration on time and on providing an open data format in the registry of declarations. Currently, one can search for declarations with the name and position of the official and the year the income and property was declared. The commitment calls for providing a searchable platform in which other search characteristics can be used. For example, an improved search function would allow searches by annual income level or specific property owned. Besides, the data would be extracted in a machine-readable format. This objective was set in Commitment 4 of Armenia’s previous action plan but was not fulfilled for several reasons. [9] The current commitment also aims to continue disclosing the lists of officials who fail to provide their declarations within the time specified by the law, as well as publishing information on the relevant sanctions applied.

This commitment has the potential to improve public access to information on public officials’ asset and income declarations. It would do so by extending the scope of information provided in declarations and facilitating access to information via technological improvements. Disclosure of the list of those who have failed to submit declarations on time and publication of sanctions applied can help to hold officials accountable. Such accountability could also be reached by making more officials subject to declaration requirements. If fully implemented, these efforts can improve civic oversight on declaration submission and any subsequent actions taken by the commission. For these reasons, the potential impact of the commitment is assessed as moderate.

Next steps

The disclosure of assets, income, and conflicts of interest by public officials has been continuously a major focus for civil society organizations working in anti-corruption and access to information. The government’s legislative initiatives to provide disclosure of assets by public officials and to ensure the oversight of possible illicit enrichment and conflicts of interest provide a basis for effective anti-corruption measures. However, steps should be taken to implement these measures in practice and ensure that all relevant institutions and establishments work effectively to prevent corruption.

One implementation constraint is the delay in the formation of the new Commission for Prevention of Corruption. According to the law, this commission should be established to replace the Commission on Ethics of High-Ranking Officials. The law afforded the new commission a larger scope of responsibilities and more domains of competence.

The IRM researcher recommends the following actions:

  • Effective state and public oversight are needed to ensure implementation of the commitment brings better accountability of officials and prevents misconduct. Thus, it is highly necessary to ensure that the relevant anti-corruption body (whether the Commission for Prevention of Corruption or another) has the necessary power and ability to apply practical mechanisms of oversight and accountability.
  • Stakeholders positively assess the intention to disclose more information. However, they suggest further extending the information in officials’ declarations to include geographical location of the estate property, as well as expenses not related to the purchase of property such as acquired expensive services (for example, tour packages, tuition fees at international universities). They also suggest including family members living separately in the list of declarants, although the definition of who constitutes family members would need to be redefined in law. [10]
[1] Government of the Republic of Armenia, OGP Armenia Action Plan 2018-2020, https://www.opengovpartnership.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/Armenia_Action-Plan_2018-2020_EN.doc.
[2] “Declaration Registry,” Commission on Ethics of High-Ranking Officials, http://ethics.am/en/declarations-registry/.
[3] Government of the Republic of Armenia, Decision №150-N, 19 February 2015, “On Making Amendments to Government of Armenia Decisions №1835-N from 15 December 2011 and №1819-N from 15 December 2011”; Amendments to the RA law On Public Service, 16 December 2016 and 09 June 2017.
[4] Amendments to the RA law On Public Service, 09 June 2017, http://www.arlis.am/DocumentView.aspx?DocID=114359.
[5] Levon Barseghyan (Asparez Journalists’ Club), phone interview by IRM researcher, 28 February 2019.
[6] According to the Armenian Statistical Committee, the average nominal wage in Armenia for employees working in the public sector was 158,155 AMD (appr. 327 USD) as of 2017. “Labour Market in the Republic of Armenia: Earnings,” Statistical Committee of the Republic of Armenia, 2018, https://www.armstat.am/file/article/trud_18_14.pdf.
[7] Varuzhan Hoktanyan (Transparency International Anticorruption Center), interview by IRM researcher, 13 February 2019.
[8] Government of the Republic of Armenia, OGP Armenia Action Plan 2018-2020, https://www.opengovpartnership.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/Armenia_Action-Plan_2018-2020_EN.doc.
[9] For more information, see Open Government Partnership, Armenia IRM End-of-Term Report 2016-2018, https://www.opengovpartnership.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/Armenia_End-Term_Report_2016-2018_EN.pdf.
[10] Journalists’ Club "Asparez," Open Society Foundations—Armenia, Transparency International Anticorruption Center, Union of Informed Citizens, Armenian Helsinki Committee, and Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly Vanadzor Office, Concept of Key Reforms to Restore the Republic of Armenia (Roadmap) ,2019, https://transparency.am/en/publications/view/247; Mariam Zadoyan and Syuzanna Soghomonyan (Anticorruption Coalition of Armenia), interview by IRM researcher, 22 February 2019; and Open Government Partnership, IRM Armenia Progress Report 2016-2018, https://www.opengovpartnership.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/Armenia_Midterm_Report_2016-2018_EN.pdf.

Commitments

  1. Open Data in Official Declarations

    AM0035, 2018, Access to Information

  2. Government Grant Transparency

    AM0036, 2018, Anti-Corruption

  3. Beneficial Ownership Register

    AM0037, 2018, Access to Information

  4. Modernization of Community Website

    AM0038, 2018, E-Government

  5. State Water Cadastre

    AM0039, 2018, E-Government

  6. Land Cadastre

    AM0040, 2018, E-Government

  7. Integrated Social Services

    AM0041, 2018, Access to Information

  8. Unified Information System for Management of Education

    AM0042, 2018, Access to Information

  9. Exploring Medical Assistance Program

    AM0043, 2018, E-Government

  10. Platform for Submitting Petitions

    AM0044, 2018, E-Government

  11. Public Service Dashboard

    AM0045, 2018, E-Government

  12. State Travel Transparency

    AM0027, 2016, E-Government

  13. Accountability for Grants of the Government

    AM0028, 2016, Anti-Corruption

  14. Transparency of the State Budget

    AM0029, 2016, Access to Information

  15. "Open Data" in Official Declaration:

    AM0030, 2016, Access to Information

  16. Portal for Community Decisions.

    AM0031, 2016, Capacity Building

  17. Accountability Licensing

    AM0032, 2016, Capacity Building

  18. Accessibility of Integrated Social Services

    AM0033, 2016, E-Government

  19. "One-Stop-Shop" Pilot Project Within Military Registration Offices

    AM0034, 2016, Capacity Building

  20. Digitization and publication of data in the “Republican Geological Fund” SNCO

    AM0016, 2014, Access to Information

  21. Ensuring Transparency in Mining

    AM0017, 2014, Anti-Corruption

  22. Ensuring Public Awareness About Health Care Financing

    AM0018, 2014, E-Government

  23. Ensuring Transparency of Asset and Income Declarations of the RA High-Ranking Officials

    AM0019, 2014, Anti-Corruption

  24. Online Broadcasting of the State Procurement Appeals Board Sessions

    AM0020, 2014, Anti-Corruption

  25. Community Microsurvey Introduction in 10 Communities

    AM0021, 2014, E-Government

  26. Ensuring Open, Transparent, Participatory and Accountable Process of State Policies and Legislative Reforms

    AM0022, 2014, E-Government

  27. Public Awareness on the Lawmaking Activity of State Governance Bodies

    AM0023, 2014, E-Government

  28. Ensuring Transparency of the Election of Governing Boards of the RA General Secondary Education Institutions and of the Annual Budget Planning and Expenses of Ra General Secondary Education Institutions

    AM0024, 2014, Education

  29. Knowledge and Capacity Building of Public Servants in the Freedom of Information and Anticorruption Field

    AM0025, 2014, Access to Information

  30. Ensuring Transparency of Local Self Government Bodies of Large Communities

    AM0026, 2014, E-Government

  31. Reviewing the Regulatory Normative Legal Acts (Regulatory Guillotine Project)

    AM0001, 2012, Legislation & Regulation

  32. Improving Internal Audit System for the Public Sector

    AM0002, 2012, Anti-Corruption

  33. Improving Procurement Procedures

    AM0003, 2012, Anti-Corruption

  34. Improving Budget Planning and Reporting Systems Through Full Utilization of Program Budgeting

    AM0004, 2012, Anti-Corruption

  35. Promoting Transparency and Objectiveness in Tax Administration

    AM0005, 2012, Anti-Corruption

  36. Fight Against Corruption

    AM0006, 2012, Anti-Corruption

  37. Introduction of a Unified Payment System (Portal)

    AM0007, 2012, E-Government

  38. State Car Inspection Improvements

    AM0008, 2012, Infrastructure & Transport

  39. Implementation of an Electronic System for Consular Services

    AM0009, 2012, Citizenship & Immigration

  40. Implementation of Mail-Armenia System

    AM0010, 2012, Citizenship & Immigration

  41. Introduction of e-Statistics System

    AM0011, 2012, E-Government

  42. Introduction of e-Documentation Sharing System in Urban Communities

    AM0012, 2012, E-Government

  43. Ensuring Transparency of Asset Declarations

    AM0013, 2012, Anti-Corruption

  44. Standardization of Offical Websites Content

    AM0014, 2012, Access to Information

  45. Improvement of Knowledge and Skills of Public Servants on Access to Information

    AM0015, 2012, Access to Information

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