The basic powers and responsibilities of local authorities shall be prescribed by the constitution or by statute. However, this provision shall not prevent the attribution to local authorities of powers and responsibilities for specific purposes in accordance with the law.
Recommendation 140 (2003), summarising the main findings of the previous monitoring report on Armenia, stated “notes that across Armenia as a whole, and especially in the rural communities, local government bodies have few substantial powers and that their autonomy is compromised by an unsatisfactory financial regime and by a lack of other resources, such as the absence of a strong local civil service”.
Since then, the Law on Local Self-Government has been modified, enumerating the powers and duties of the Council of Aldermen and the Chief of Community. Another development is the growing delegation of powers to local authorities, such as the transfer of certain social services to some urban communities and of many state functions to the municipality of Yerevan. Even the range of mandatory tasks and functions has been extended slightly. Nevertheless, there has been little change regarding the predominant role of central government and its regional authorities as compared with the local communities.
Although the Charter does not specify the kind of local public affairs to be regulated and managed by local authorities (municipalities in this particular case), the most important local matters that greatly affect the life of the local community should, as a general principle, be decided and managed at the local government level. In Armenia, the vast majority of local public services are delivered by the state administration. This division of powers and duties may lead to an ineffective local administration and, in the absence of local democratic scrutiny, may result in a serious democratic deficit.
For the majority of local public services, local communities do not have full and exclusive powers. Instead, they often perform functions under delegated powers, with local government bodies serving as agents of the central government, rather than autonomous actors of local public administration.
The Congress delegation found that “own” tasks and delegated powers often are not clearly separated, which has negative effects on both the accountability and the finance of local communities. It goes without saying that the scope of local autonomy is much wider when a function falls within the responsibility of local government, while the mere execution of a centrally delegated task places a local community in a subordinate position to the central authorities.
The current situation meets the Charter requirement concerning the right of local authorities to be consulted “in due time and in an appropriate way” on matters which concern them directly. There is no information available on the existence of an institutionalised and regular coordination between the central government and local communities guaranteed by law. Their contacts are based on person-to-person relationships and local authorities are informed about central government decisions on an ad hoc basis. The consultation mechanism is not properly regulated.