Time in Yerevan: 11:07:36,   22 April

Chief of Staff- Secretary General of Armenia’s Parliament participates in international conference in Kyiv

YEREVAN, NOVEMBER 16, ARMENPRESS. Chief of Staff-Secretary General of the Parliament of Armenia Ara Saghatelyan took part in the International Conference organized by GIZ in Kyiv on November 13-15, the Armenian Parliament told Armenpress. It was dedicated to Strengthening Parliament’s Oversight Function in Eastern Partnership Countries.

During the conference the participants discussed the current challenges in reforming parliamentary administrations in Eastern Partnership (EAP) countries, the importance of the scientific research-analytical centres for further Parliament’s reform, as well as the challenges for a stronger cooperation between supreme audit institutions (SAI) and parliaments in EAP countries.

Ara Saghatelyan delivered remarks at the Conference, which runs as follows:

“Dear colleagues and friends,

I thank GIZ for the invitation and giving us the opportunity to have interesting discussion. Such meetings are indeed of great value and importance from the perspective of moving forward the reforms of parliament administrations, exchange of experience and getting to know new and interesting approaches in this field of public service.

The practical application of the new ideas discerned from the evolving discussions in such platforms is very important in order to boost the analytical and research capacities in the parliaments, to deepen interagency cooperation and improve the overall efficiency of our work.

In Armenia these questions are more than of just current interest, since – as you know – in 2018 our country transformed from semi-presidential into a parliamentary form of governance and at the moment we are in the stage of adapting to the new system. This new form of government presumes a re-evaluation of the parliament’s role in the decision-making and in formulating the domestic political agenda, as well as certain improvement of the capacities of responding to new challenges.

In the meantime, the transition to parliamentary system yielded to increased burden of responsibility on the National Assembly. Therefore, large scale reforms, including in the Administration, became more important and inevitable.

Dear colleagues,

The reform process in the parliamentary administrations requires continuity since we always have to provide for synchronization between the functions of the entire parliamentary infrastructure and the daily needs and expectations of the members of parliament. The administration also has to serve as guarantor for the full and appropriate legislative, representative, oversight (inter alia on budgeting) and other functions.

The purpose of the ongoing reforms in the National Assembly of Armenia is to create most fertile grounds for the MPs to carry out their constitutional authority and functions. By favorable conditions I imply the creation of such systematized and effective means for the National Assembly Administration to serve the needs of the parliament and its various bodies – the Parliament Speaker, deputy speakers, MPs, standing committees and factions.

Unfortunately, the reforms process is not very smooth and homogeneous, often times we face various problems and challenges which slow down our pace.

I am convinced that in the early stages of these reforms the biggest challenges are the optimization of the structure of the NA Administration and its synchronization with the changing political needs and socio-economic conditions, as well as the expectations of the parliamentarians and the public. At this stage, as a general rule, we encounter some internal resistance between those implementing the reforms and those staffers who are hesitant to leave their comfort zone and experience difficulties in terms of acquiring new knowledge and skills. It’s here that certain technical hardships pop up, including for the reasons of absence of full coordination in the Administration, duplication of functions – among other issues – which is the “laundry list” to address in the course of the reforms.

The next challenge is to ensure relevant competency of the staffers and engage high quality experts for the needs of the parliament. Noting the budgetary restrictions, it’s close to impossible to compete with the private sector. The professionals, as a rule, prefer to work in the private sector as a good expert expects a reasonable pay.

Budgetary restrictions also impede carrying out exchange programs, or limit the scope and frequency of those. Therefore, I think, the inability to ensure continuous flow of exchange programs and trainings to learn best practices overseas is the Achilles’ heel of all parliamentary Administrations.

My own analysis shows, that the next issue to address, perhaps, is the lack of proper and full understanding of the role and purpose of the parliament – either in the other branches of power or the public. This perhaps is a result of the lack of relevant political culture.

The other segment of issues refers to the financial support of the Administration and its financial independence. Meantime, it’s highly important to streamline and simplify the processes of validating the expenses with relevant fiscal agencies. From this perspective, as a challenge we must highlight the importance of readiness of the government to establish a proper level of dialogue and develop certain standards of communication, including within the frameworks of due processes of parliamentary oversight.

The lack of institutional collaboration with the expert community is yet another issue to address. I will save this for our next discussion today.

Dear colleagues,

Perhaps, I would not be too wrong to conclude that the issues listed so far more or less reflect the challenges we all struggle within our administrations. But there is one other problem, or rather a challenge, that is knocking on our doors. That’s the challenge of time. The modern, technologically advanced internet society, that is easy- going, instantly informed, fast to change mood and as much fast to submit demands on one hand, and our more institutional, serious and comprehensively reflective structures on the other – are vividly moving farther from each other day by day. If we can be fully honest about it, we all observe this. Our Administrations, even those most established, are like a well taken care of, seriously looking traditional Rolls Royce luxury cars, that is reflective of every turn it makes, drives without violating the traffic rules. They used to tackle issues of public behavior by affecting popular thinking and demands with its solid look alone. Today we have a qualitatively different situation. Now our Rolls Royce cars must serve a new society that is shaped by figuratively speaking, a skater sliding between cars, by tweets, comments on Facebook walls, selfies and copy-pastes from Wikipedia. I mean the speedy, easy-going, not too deep, simple and most importantly – the inclusive is new reality, when the object of politics now by all means wants to also become the implementer. That is our new reality. Now the question is – whether our more traditional structures are ready to face this. I think the answer is – not entirely.

Today an MP expects our technical assistance in helping them to come online on Facebook for live broadcast in the first place, and not necessarily in assisting to put together a two-day international conference. Of course, I hereby bring only surface-level examples but that is only to make sure my points are illustrative enough. Yet my point is simple. We have to be able to save the traditional, the institutional, the Rolls Royce, but we ought to ensure that we catch up the skater who doesn’t go too far away in between cars and through crossroads. Otherwise we are going to miss the connection between us, which is not desirable at all. I am sure we will have opportunities to seriously discuss this in many occasions.

In conclusion, once again let me express my gratitude to the organizers and all colleagues for this timely, highly useful and productive discussion.

I thank you for your attention and look forward to exchanging views on the above”.

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