Final Round Table Discussion of the “Identification of Corruption Risks in Customs Clearance of Imported Cars to Armenia” Project

On 29 July, the final round table discussion of the “Identification of Corruption Risks in Customs Clearance of Imported Cars to Armenia” project was held in the conference hall of the Lori Governor’s Administration. The project was implemented by the “Armenian Constitutional Right-Protective Center” NGO in the scope of a small sub-grant allocated in the framework of the “Multi-Faceted Anti-Corruption Promotion” project implemented by the “Armenian Lawyers’ Association” NGO and its partner, the “Freedom of Information Center” NGO. The project was aimed at contributing to the implementation of the Action Plan of the RA Government's 2015-2018 Anti-Corruption Strategy.

Alessandro Zanotta, Economic Governance and Public Administration Reforms Adviser at the EU Delegation to Armenia, highlighted the importance of the event, noting that results of public bodies in the achievements of reforms to benefit the Armenian citizens are important for the European Union. He added that the outcome of the discussion will be reported to the EU and the latter will continue to monitor the progress of the process. In addition, Mr. Zanotta stressed that the current anti-corruption platform of cooperation between civil society organisations and the government is the best format to achieve results in Armenia and if successful other countries will learn from this experience.

Coordinator of the CSO Anti-Corruption Coalition of Armenia and President of the Armenian Lawyers' Association Karen Zadoyan told the participants that it is expected to discuss the corruption problems in the business sector, including those in the customs and tax sectors, at the upcoming session of the Anti- Corruption Council where the top-priority recommendations voiced during discussions in the Government-Business-CSO format will also be presented, with the purpose of ensuring implementation of reforms in these sectors.

Mher Martirosyan, the Deputy Head of the Customs Control Department of the State Revenue Committee adjacent to the RA Government, presented the reforms implemented in the field, attaching importance to the SRC-CSO constructive cooperation targeted at solving corruption problems through joint working groups. In addition, he answered to the participants’ questions.

Sociologist Aharon Adibekyan presented the findings of the sociological research conducted in the scope of the project. According to him, the main problems related to the import of cars are: customs clearance dues, difficulties related to the completion of customs clearance declarations, and the bureaucratic fuss. For instance, he noted that only 5-15% of importers complete customs clearance declarations by themselves, while the rest of them prefer to use specialised customs brokers’ services.

Gevorg Manukyan, the President of the “Armenian Constitutional Right-Protective Centre” (ACRPC) NGO, presented the results of the journalistic observations, the survey and the online discussions carried out in the scope of the project. Among the main problems he mentioned the difficulties that arise during self-declaration of cars using the transaction value method, the existing corruption risks, as well as citizens' poor awareness of customs procedures. Overall, the controversial issues raised during the discussion can be divided into three categories: determination of the customs value for imported cars, improvement and simplification of the customs legislation, raising importers’ awareness.

One of the proposed suggestions concerned the introduction of electronic calculators which would enable citizens to calculate the customs clearance cost for each given car.

With the purpose of contributing to reforms in the field, the recommendations presented in the course of the active discussion will be summarised and sent to the RA Government and the State Revenue Committee for consideration.

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The budget of the “Identification of Corruption Risks in Customs Clearance of Imported Cars to Armenia” Project (1 April-31 July, 2016) implemented by the “Armenian

Constitutional Right-Protective Center” (ACRPC) NGO is AMD 1,924,000, of which AMD 1,328,000 was contributed by the “Armenian Lawyers’ Association” non-governmental organisation. Within the framework of the project it was planned to raise awareness among beneficiaries, carry out sociological research, carry out journalistic observations, a survey and online thematic discussions, prepare and publish reports, as well as todevelop constructive recommendations and submit them to the RA Government and the RA State Revenue Committee for anti-corruption reforms.

The main goal of the “Multi-Faceted Anti-Corruption Promotion” project is to increase the role of the Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) in promoting anti-corruption reforms and their implementation. In the framework of the project the capacity of CSOs and the media to engage in monitoring and watchdog activities has been enhanced. Thus, 100 CSOs and media organisations have strengthened their understanding of corruption issues and freedom of information as well as their ability to monitor and engage in watchdog activities. Small sub-grants have been allocated to 15 CSOs and media organisations for raising the effectiveness of public monitoring and the implementation of appropriate monitoring, watchdog and investigative activities. In 2014 the CSO Anti-Corruption Coalition of Armenia was established in the scope of the project. The Coalition now comprises more than 80 CSOs and media organisations and plays a key role in the sustainable CSO-Government dialogue developed in the scope of the project. The joint work of the Government and the Coalition on the issues of the criminalisation of illicit enrichment and the establishment of an independent anti-corruption agency has been a particularly remarkable achievement in the scope of the project.

The project is funded by the European Union and co-funded by the OSCE Office in Yerevan. It is implemented by the “Armenian Lawyers’ Association” NGO – Applicant and “Freedom of Information Center” NGO – Partner. The project duration is 3 years (January 2014 – December 2016) and the budget is 650,000 EUR, of which 585,000 EUR was contributed by the EU and 31,117 EUR was contributed by the OSCE Office in Yerevan.

Armenian Lawyers’ Association (ALA) was established in 1995 with a Mission to promote to the establishment of the rule of law, democracy and formation of the civil society in Armenia, where the people are aware of their rights and where their rights are protected. Before February 2016, ALA was called Armenian Young Lawyers Association.

Freedom of Information Center (FOI) operates over 10 years. The Mission of FOI is to promote application of the RA Freedom openness of the Armenian government system and to stimulate civic society's involvement in the governance system.