Wednesday, 13 November

Shoddy School Construction and No One is Punished

The newly built P.S. 2 in the Aragatz village of Aragatzotn Marz officially opened its doors on September 5, 2006. Then President Robert Kocharian was present and cut the ceremonial red ribbon.

Just one year later the floorboards in the school started to rot and warp. The reason was the school hadn't been outfitted with a water drainage system. The moisture began to build up, attacking the wooden floors.

Two years ago, the school administration and parents got together and cemented over some of the floors with their own money. The Aragatzotn Regional Administration agreed to pick up the tab for the remaining floors along with the organization World Vision.

When our team visited the school it was locked and school Principal Sourman Avdalyan was away. We called him, asking that he give permission to the guard to let us in. We wanted to take some photos inside.

Principal Avdalyan refused, arguing that he would have to be present. He wouldn't be swayed by our protestations.

Mayor Gagik Poghosyan didn't want to get involved in the matter either. He told us that the municipality had no jurisdiction over the school. The mayor said he would call the principal and try to intervene on our behalf. By that time, the principal had turned off his cell phone.

The school was built by a company called S. Sedrakyan and Son, Ltd. which won a tender bid for the job back in 2004. The state government allocated 114 million AMD for the project.

It took two years for the company to actually build the school. Former school Principal Grisha Simonyan says he didn't sign any "acceptance" document at the time registering the fact that the completed school was being handed over to him.

"I demanded such a document but the company said that the Regional Governor had placed the original order for the school and that it would be handed over to him," said Simonyan.

The former principal was even told not to stick his nose where it doesn't belong and that the former Regional Governor Gabriel Gyozalyan (an ARF member) had everything under control.

Current Regional Governoor Sargis Sahakyan says the project completion order was never signed because certain construction deficiencies were uncovered.

Presently, the RA Prosecutor's Office is handling the case and they say that the construction company embezzled 1.222 million AMD in state money allocated for the project.

Criminal charges against S. Sedrakyan and Son were filed in March of last year. In the pre-trial examination, the National Security Service says it uncovered proof that the company used shoddy materials and poor workmanship throughout the construction process.

Documents we received from the Prosecutor's Office also allege that the company failed to pay workers' salaries in the amount of 640,000 AMD.

The construction company has since filed for bankruptcy.

An expert panel was commissioned to look into the technical aspects of the school's construction. In April, 2011, it reported back that the company failed to complete 5.9 million AMD in work as defined in the original project order.

The government is planning more audits and studies.

In the past five years, no one has been punished for their actions.

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