Sunday, February 13, 2011

Open letter to Armenia Fund of France by concerned Armenian-French donors

The Armenian community in France is discussing the White Paper "To Donate Or Not To Donate" on the forum of Nouvelles d’Arménie Magazine.

The debate has so far produced the following open letter to the Armenia Fund of France, which has been posted on a wordpress titled Ecrittératures which the English translation reads as follows:

February 12, 2011

Warning: The text below is not ours. But it suggests a problem that we have repeatedly raised here and there. That is why we have felt it necessary to relay on our blog.
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Since 4 February, the website forum of Nouvelles d’Arménie Magazine (NAM) = Armenia News Magazine ( ) was  enlivened by a debate on the Armenian Fund "Hayastan", following an article published from the United States in English and Armenian by Ara Manoogian.

The accusations by Ara Manoogian ( ) and adopted by the online news site Hraparag (see HERE ) are as numerous and diverse as intermediaries involved in each phase of the Armenia Fund projects. Admittedly, the charges do not directly concern the Armenian Fund of France, but these revelations naturally lead a significant number of donors of the French association and, more generally, members of the Armenian community in France, to ask itself questions about the reality of the facts reported.

These accusations are moreover regarded with respect and seriousness, that:
- Ara Manoogian has already made public several scandals of misappropriation and embezzlement, proven in particular with regard to the Kashatagh region of the Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh.
- That the facts reported for already more than a month have not been denied by the informed authorities of Armenia Fund, including its executive office in Yerevan and by the intermediation of which the Armenian Fund of France functions.

This open letter is the outcome of the proposal by "Dzovig" on the NAM forum NAM, which has "suggested that a text regrouping the essential elements of contestation be written and SIGNED by all those who want to understand : a summary petition addressed to the fund!"

The first point denounced by the above-cited investigation concerns the fact that Manushak Petrossian, former executive director of the Armenian Fund "Hayastan", was personally made rich by amassing wealth accumulated "during her six years as administrator”. The article cites "her lavish residence, as well the bar ‘Pioner’, the shoe store ‘Rio’, and other houses belonging to other members of the administration of the Fund".

The Net-Surfer "Dzovig" sets the scene of debate that starts: "I am ashamed of that Armenia then and mostly I am saddened to think that there exist so many values that could move this country in the right direction, but also to  realize that are lacking ‘the locomotives there" capable of generating the necessary momentum, which is so lacking in this point. "

What do you answer her? Are you also ashamed of that Armenia there? et que prévoyez-vous pour changer la donne ? and do you foresee to change the existing situation?

Just after that point, the fact is denounced that the Armenian Fund "Hayastan" is a political organization which interferes in political debates in a more or less direct manner. A reality admitted since 1999 by Raffi Hovhannisian, when he was the Executive Director of Armenian Fund "Hayastan".

The Armenian Fund "Hayastan" is a governmental organization of the Republics of Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh, whose representatives and officials are more numerous than independent representatives of the Diaspora in the Board of Governors, the decision-making body of the Armenian Fund. It is also comments that the offices of Armenian Fund "Hayastan" are housed in the building of the Government of Armenia.

It is on this issue that the Net-Surfer "Samtilbian" directly challenges Bedros Terzian, the president of Armenia Fund of France: "Would our highly respected Bedros Terzian be so engulfed in this point? What is his actual influence within this Board of Directors on the boot of all these profiteers, with the blessing of our Catholicos and our country’s Charles [translator’s note: Aznavour]? What the auditor Amyot doing in view of all these misappropriations?”

The Net-Surfer "HB " challenges even more directly: "And what if BT was himself a phagocyte? And not just him anyway?  He adds a little later in the discussion: Frankly, he and many others who are not part of the "Twelve Apostles" and who nevertheless have responsibilities within the Fund, do they overlook all this? Honestly?! (…) If one tenth of the investigation reflects the reality of things, not to state the truth is very serious. » This same "HB" offers this justification by translating the above-cited investigation: "I'm not the correspondent in France of ‘Hraparak’; I do not know Ara Manoukian, nor any other member of this online journal, but I find it necessary to publicize the investigation, so that one day some of them can not also be justified by saying, ‘We did not know.’ "

In fact, all these reactions are a scream in the face of so many abominations and silences. "HB" undertakes to summarize the situation as "it is not possible that officials at any level whatsoever of the Fund in France were not aware of what amounts to a crime, a real robbery, given the dilapidated state of Armenia. There are complicities for which accounts are to be given, but that will not bring the misappropriated and funds."

Only a few Net-Surfers, such as "Samtilbian" openly defend the case Bedros Terzian: "I do not think Bedros Terzian is a profiteer; on the contrary, we lack personalities of integrity and selflessness such as him. Nevertheless, we must give worth to the rigor required by the Fund's management, which is indispensable for its credibility, even if it takes pounding by fist."

In this regard, Raffi Hovhanessian, then executive director of the Yerevan Armenia Fund has even told someone close to him before submitting his resignation: "Do you want us to work with thieves?" The investigation also seeks to present the operational details  to "ensure that construction contracts are concluded with companies whose owners are men of power or people close to them.” There are also details of the means for "the  subsequent privatization of a building constructed by the Armenian Fund ‘Hayastan’. “

The investigation also addresses the audits, their methods, and the officials responsible for inspections and reveals that "the head of the supervisory committee of the pan-Armenian Fund ‘Hayastan’, Gagik Khatchatrian, is the chair of State revenues in the Republic of Armenia (RA) government. It also recalls some basic rules of audit: "Organizations that assure a rotation of audit firms are more reliable. Grant Thornton has been performing the audit of Armenian Fund "Hayastan" since 2005 without interruption. «Les auditeurs peuvent devenir moins vigilants et considérer l'audit comme une répétition des opérations précédentes» ». "The auditors can become less vigilant and consider the audit as a repetition of previous operations".

One question: for how many consecutive years has the Amyot office audited  the Armenian Fund of France?

"HB" undertakes to express aloud the general feeling of the moment: "If cettte investigation has any truth to it, ALL RESPONSIBLE OFFICIALS at different levels of the Fund without substance are guilty because of their complicity and their silence, period!” Net-Surfer" JP " so far as to propose to “pursue the Fund's representatives in the Diaspora, those making the quest for "malfeasant association"! . . Pascal Nicolaides undertakes to clarify that "JP does not hold it against the ‘underlings’ on the phone but the ‘organizers’ of the quest."

The intervention of "Samtilbian", though firm, offers an honorable way out for Armenia Fund of France to which it assures the willingness to continue "to maintain its monthly withdrawal, continue sending its check to the telethon, because the country needs our help, but it will require those responsible for the FAF they themselves to assume following-up, otherwise it will refocus its participation toward another organization. » And as specified by "HB", “through the bias of small structures that control everything from A to Z with corresponding reliable groups.” To be read as: “the Armenian Fund of France no longer appears as a reliable organization.

"JP" tries to refocus the debate: "This leaves me doubtful that this kind of story is that collective means end up as a party to private interest for lucrative means.” Is this really what the donors wanted?

 "Lenajan2" then affirms that "the only way to make things happen is if the information is confirmed, the case breaks in the written newspapers, France Armenia, NAM, etc.. And even the French newspapers, that’s too serious. Today, there is a consensus to give a kick in the anthill, to shatter the case, to get it out of this forum.

"Haytoug" perfectly summarizes the current state of mind of the donors, "someone might well say that even if only 10% of what he gives will reach its destination,well, so be it, hewill still give because it is at least that, and given the state of the country and its people, it is not nothing.” "The situation is serious even if in fact, as " samtilbian" testifies  he " remains convinced that the FAF contributes to the development of the country and Artsakh" albeit he is shocked" thugs who grease themselves on the way ". "HB" reminds "that he is not worse as blind as he who does not want to see."

The investigation allows confirmation of accusations cited-above of not following utilization of funds, since the Armenian Fund, with operating expenses as low as it says "automatically falls to the level of charities (which are) a tool for collecting money used by other community charities. (…) In these fees fall the demand and the collection of donations, but monitoring of the projects themselves are excluded.  The insufficient expenditure for operating costs generates inefficient management of allocated gifts, for projects and their implementation.” Can the Armenian Fund of France, can confirm that it himself controls the projects which it finances?

 "HB" allows himself to a rather flowery, but no less revealing,” commentary: "It trickles with incompetence!” Before warning that" if it should continue, it will end badly."
"HB" explains that "what seems shocking now, (...) is that he (Ara Manoogian) includes in THE SAME article a number of facts and outrageous behavior that occurred over nearly 15 years. That is grounds, and unbelievable. While these facts and behavior, already reported and described SEPARATELY here and there by different people, have raised no response worthy of the name because they are necessarily diluted. "

C'est à ce moment de la discussion que « Dzovig » appelle les internautes à s'en remettre à la presse : elle lance un appel à la mobilisation. At this point in the discussion "Dzovig" calls the Net-Surfers to take up the press: she launches a call for the mobilization.

"HB" deals with the basic problem of denouncing the problem thoroughly, by denouncing that, "with time and means, of preference to others, of course, he has captured the tasks incumbent upon the State ONLY, to a State as it should be.” And even threatening in terms scarcely veiled, "customs clearance of all those who in one way or another clear the Fund, are accomplices of the collapse and persistence of serious problems!"

The debate gains in depth with the intervention of "Shant Mamaz", which recalls that "the myth was shattered with the presidential elections of 2008 and the 10 killed during thedemonstrations.” The debate on the Armenian Fund exceeds the Fund alone, but at the same time, because of its importance in the lives of Armenians in France, he crystalizes the collective of all discontent regarding the cooperation of the Diaspora with the corrupted and violent authorities of the Republic of Armenia. Les débats tournent autour du repeuplement avorté du Karabagh. The debates revolve around the aborted repopulation Karabakh. To witness its failure? Pourquoi?

"HB" and "Pascal Nicolaides" confirm the convergence of viewpoints. No one argues otherwise.
"Dzovig" announces that she has sent a message of protest to the office of the Armenian Fund of France (info@fondsarmenien.netIn short, Net-Surfers want to "sound the death-knell.” This is not a good sign for the Armenian Fund of France if refuses to reform in depth the management of projects before it's too late.

"Artour", especially registered on the forum to participate in this discussion, tries to convince them that "the Armenian Fund of France did not steal money. It works "only" with intermediaries who are not the best qualified.” He denounces the inefficiency of the controls of audit firms because they are not as interested in accounting records and the materiality of transactions as in the transparency of procedures in place. Les audits contrôlent les travaux finis! And "as regards the audits of the quality of building construction, they are worthless since they have carried out internally by employees of the Fund in Yerevan, through the" experts "of the Fund in Yerevan ... Audits control the finished work! ». A little later he addresses the managers of the Fund directly, "Have you never made an impact study of your projects about the development of localities involved in your projects? What conclusions did you draw? Were these findings taken into account in the development of new projects? What independent professionals were asked to conduct these studies? Were they never published?"

Entre-temps, « JP » demande à ce que soit « analysé l'impact social des réalisations. Meanwhile, "JP" asks that " the social impact of achievements be analyzed. » Il finit en s'interrogeant si « la finalité est au profit du privé ou du public ? He ends by questioning whether "the purpose is for the private or public benefit?” As for "Dzovig, she never loses the thread of her commitment by reminding that" WE ARE ALL POWERFUL FOR IT  IS WE WHO HAVE THE FUNDS."

"HB" affirms, "it's all the activity for nearly 20 years that should be vetted, peeled and peeled again, the protagonists included without any complacency. (…) I'm repeating myself but it’s necessary: this is incredible and shocking in all, that this article brings together in a single place, acts that occurred SEPARATELY and were commented upon in ISOLATION, and therefore have lost their gravity to be considered anecdotal, such as errors of youth, simple inattention, etc., etc.."

"JP" reminds us that "whatever the approach, objectivity is required, since it concerns first assessment to give a well-constructed representation and not sudden and nothing else. As a second step, if necessary and for more definite results, a more probing assessment could be undertaken.” La démobilisation des internautes n'est pas à l'ordre du jour. "The demobilization of the Net-Surfers is not the agenda. The Armenian Fund of France needs to understand this.”

"Artour" completes the reflection on this theme by asking the "Armenian Fund of France, for which honest and disinterested people work and are invested, that the Fund at last decides to take the necessary measures to end any controversy arising out of doubt about the proper use of donations in Armenia by thousands and thousands of French donors, delegating to the Fund the responsibility to use [said funds] for the best.” And to conclude : "As of today, it seems clear that the Fund has failed in its duty of supervision for the proper use of grants to finance projects in Armenia. This is serious."

It is at that moment that "HB" delivers the last translated paragraph of the investigation,which discusses the billing of projects financed by the Fund, a difference from one to three, for projects prepared by the same class submitted by other performers. There is also addressed the issue of poor quality projects. In passing, the investigation denounces the  non-concurrence between those involved in construction (BTP). Denounced in particular is the resale among companies of awarded contracts. The President of the Republic of Artsakh at the time, Arkady Ghukasian, would himself have personally explained being "unhappy with the poor quality of construction works by pan-Armenian Fund" Hayastan."

“Shant Mamaz” s'insurge que « ce qui est imputable véritablement au Fonds Arménien c'est de nous faire prendre des vessies pour des lanternes. "Shant Mamaz" protests that "what is really attributable to the Armenian Fund is trying to pull the wool over our eyes.” In the course of a long tirade, she refocuses upon the action strategy of Armenia Fund. She is surprised by an organizational weakening, the replacement of strategic projects by joint projects to be returned for oversight by the State. "Samtilbian" publicly questioned "whether (...) really the Diaspora leaders involved are fools?"

"Lenajan2", with common sense, recognizes that "this topic is flying high, intellectually speaking, having said this, from a concret point of view, I do not see the shadow of an early solution. We should shoot it all to hell, (why not), but what do we put in its place?” What to do so that this deaf anger, expressed so loudly today, allows us to move forward without going backward?

The conversation on the day of publication of this letter was to address the organizational costs of raising funds through annual telethons.
En conclusion de cette lettre publique, nous posons tous la question formulée par « Dzovig » : QUE FAISONS-NOUS POUR QUE LES FONDS REUNIS GRACE A LA DIASPORA PROFITENT PLEINEMENT AUX ARMENIENS D'ARMENIE ? In conclusion of this public letter, we all ask the question as "Dzovig": WHAT DO WE DO SO THAT THE FUNDS COLLECTED THANKS BENEFIT TO THE FULLEST THE ARMENIANS OF ARMENIA?? Because "it is urgent to give hope to discouragedfamilies a meaning to their lives by helping them DIRECTLY on the ground." It is clear that the answer can only come from the leaders of Armenia Fund, which is at present the Armenian organization which insures the greatest volume of aid to the Armenians of Armenian and Nagorno-Karabakh. The danger is that the destruction of such an institution would do a lot of damage. Our intention is not that, but rather to arouse an in-depth change for the perfection of action and great effectiveness of projects.

On 12 February, “Dzovig” wrote on the forum that “in response to my letter to Armenian Fund, I received an advertisement for a touristic-cultural-informative tour to Hayastant Arsakh – LOL.” So just when the leaders of the Armenian Fund of France are under obligation to answer publicly to each of the questions posed and to undertake a deep reform of its action. The acccusations are very serious; it depends on the association to deal with them directly if it wants to preserve its reputation. We all hope that the Armenian Fund of France is the one about which we all dream and that Armenia is growing as certainly as our funds are being managed by responsible and serious people.
Thank you to the Armenian Fund of France to respond to each of the points mentioned in this document.

Thank you to the Armenian Fund of France to submit as soon as possible concrete solutions to the donors.

Already, we inform you that we will be careful that this open letter does not go unheeded.

Please accept the assurances of our most patriotic feelings.

On behalf of the Armenian Fund donors from France and the Armenian population always in need.

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