April 28, 2014

Building with Integrity: How Armenia Fund Gets the Job Done

How it all works at the Armenia Fund


Seeing the work that Armenia Fund has done in the past twenty-two years – building important infrastructure like highways, hospitals, schools, and waterways – one might think there are hundreds of people working for the pan-Armenian organization headquartered in Yerevan, Armenia, that has 25 affiliates in 22 countries throughout the world.

It’s true that thousands of people have been employed by the indispensable construction projects, but the crew of people managing the process is surprisingly small.

Although Armenia Fund provides assistance in myriad ways, including scholarships to exceptional students and aid to veterans of the Artsakh War, the bulk of its work focuses on construction projects with an eye to the future.

Like most things associated with Tony Soprano, the construction business doesn’t have a good reputation. But there is good among the bad – you just have to find it – and Armenia Fund has been refining its process over the past two decades to do precisely that.

Considering the millions of dollars that is donated by Armenians throughout the world for humanitarian projects in Armenia, including Artsakh, the office with the most important job is probably the one that awards construction contracts.

A complex process, the lengthy and demanding steps required of all bidders is not for the faint of heart. Financial records, including a company’s outstanding loans and tax payment history; disclosure of legal issues; work experience in similar construction; and, as would be expected, a realistic bid, must be submitted by any company interested in working on an Armenia Fund project.

There are no exceptions to the standards of excellence demanded by Armenia Fund.

Because almost all construction projects – schools, hospitals, roads -impact the daily lives of people, Armenia Fund takes no shortcuts, prioritizing quality over the bottom line.

Awarding the project is only one part; making sure the work is done according to Armenia Fund’s standards is another.

Several quality control mechanisms are in place to check the construction. Armenia Fund’s construction department is composed of experienced professionals whose expertise in their field allows them to verify if standards are being met and, if they’re not, to halt construction and withhold payment.

An independent firm to check construction quality is also hired, this in addition to the government agencies that conduct their own checks.

To round out the extensive measures taken by Armenia Fund, international tax, consulting, and auditing firm Grant Thornton brings in its own construction auditor, the results of which are made available in regular audit reports.

Payment to the construction companies is done monthly – not in a lump sum – and they are approved only after monthly construction update reports are sent to the Armenia Fund headquarters from the field. And because construction must be guaranteed for a certain period, Armenia Fund keeps a portion of the final payment until that period has elapsed and no construction flaws have been detected.

Armenia Fund’s long bidding, awarding, and auditing processes might seem excessive. In fact, they are the product of twenty-two years of cumulative experience, trial and error, and fine tuning that have made Armenia Fund the most efficient, streamlined, and transparent construction management organization in Armenia. It’s a system Tony Soprano would hate – and it’s continuously getting better.

If you’re wondering how Armenia Fund arrived at such a complicated process, the simple answer is integrity.

It would be much easier to announce a project, award it to the lowest bidder – despite any other criteria, – and not bother with the tedium of constant monitoring and post-construction auditing.

But who would ensure there weren’t back-door deals among the bidders or substandard firms placing bids they could never fulfill? Who would monitor every step of the process at an extra cost to guarantee that the schools being built for children, the roads being driven on by farmers, and the hospitals being used by veterans were built with the care and attention they deserved? Armenia Fund does.

It is with the knowledge that they have been tasked with building a nation, by a nation, that the people in Armenia Fund come to work every day.

Ara Vardanyan, the executive director of the Hayastan All-Armenian Fund, sums it up: “Armenia Fund is an investment by Armenians all over the world in the future of their country, their homeland. The responsibility we feel to these benefactors as well as to our past, to our present, and to our future, is what guides our work and our insistence on the standards of excellence we promote.”

         
       Kantsasar Weekly  Diario Armenia