The main issues on the agenda were implementing state anti-corruption policy, and the effectiveness of recent legislative and administrative measures.
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President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon, colleagues,
We are here today to discuss the results of state anti-corruption policy.
We have taken a number of recent steps to minimise corruption risks at all levels of government and have expanded the list of state officials who must present information on their incomes and property. All municipal heads and heads of state institutions and state-owned companies must now declare their incomes.
Starting this year, we also introduced measures to monitor big expenses by officials. Senior civil servants are now prohibited from holding and using foreign bank accounts, deposits and financial instruments. These laws were passed in December 2012 and May 2013. On April 5 this year, we passed a new law that changes public procurement rules, starting at the planning stage and finishing with checks on the activities of the agencies and officials placing the orders.
Anti-corruption expert evaluation of laws has become widespread practice. This helps to reduce corruption risks by excluding from the outset unlawful or ambiguous provisions that create loopholes for arbitrary action and abuse by officials.
We are introducing clear administrative rules for provision of state services and are limiting possibilities to carry out all manner of inspections and other unjustified interference in business activity.
The work to implement the ‘roadmaps’ for improving the business climate is also one of our systemic anti-corruption measures. Russian businesspeople and foreign experts have noted our progress in this area.
”State anti-corruption policy must rest on the principle of inevitable punishment for these kinds of crimes. We must take firm and consistent action in all areas of the fight against corruption.“
Our experts make varying estimates, but we have, for example, the annual World Bank report on the business climate in different countries, which has only just come out. The report’s authors have moved Russia up to 92nd place on this rating. It’s not the best result, but let us remember that in 2011, Russia was in 120th place.
We need to keep moving steadily in this direction and remember that the better the business climate and the more effective and optimum are our administrative procedures, the less room there will be for corruption and the more opportunity there will be for economic growth and for developing our country in general.
Let me say a few words now about our law enforcement agencies’ anti-corruption work. According to the Interior Ministry, the number of corruption cases brought to light fell this year. More than 34,000 cases were registered in the first half of 2012, but this number was down to 29,501 for the first half of 2013. These figures require careful analysis of course. Given the hidden and latent nature of corruption crimes, we cannot afford to be complacent. We need to study the statistics carefully. I hope the prosecutor’s office is following this closely.
The number of people charged with taking bribes increased by almost a third – by 32 percent – over the same period. Nearly 700 people – 692, to be precise – were found guilty of taking bribes over the first half of 2013. At the same time, what I particularly want to note is that only 8 percent of those guilty of taking bribes were sentenced to actual terms of imprisonment. Most of them were ordered to pay fines, which criminals get out of paying by making use of all sorts of legal loopholes.
The decisions to liberalise penalties in this area were adopted back in 2011, as you know. We all agreed with them then and hoped in this way to appeal to the conscience of those who violate the law. Practice suggests though that this liberalisation is not working the way we hoped. We therefore need to analyse the situation, and I would like to hear your proposals on this matter.
Let me say again that state anti-corruption policy must rest on the principle of inevitable punishment for these kinds of crimes. We must take firm and consistent action in all areas of the fight against corruption.
Let me draw your attention to several aspects.
First, we need to work more effectively to weed out corruption in the government system. This has to start at the farthest approaches, in other words, with the selection of candidates for this or that position. Anyone wanting to become a municipal or government civil servant must understand very clearly that this goes hand in hand with tough anti-corruption requirements and particular restrictions that they must comply with strictly. Our position is that people entering the civil service take on these obligations voluntarily. This is each person’s voluntary choice.
For their part, the heads of state agencies at all levels must bear personal responsibility for the arrival of people on their staff who see the civil service as a means for unlawful personal enrichment.
”One of our most important tasks is to raise people’s legal awareness. Anti-corruption standards of behaviour based on knowledge of general rights and obligations must be the norm for everyone.“
Second, we need to take a tougher line to prevent corruption in the law enforcement and judicial systems. Corruption in the organisations that are supposed to guarantee law and order seriously undermines public trust in the authorities and the policies they implement.
Third, analysis of prosecutors’ and investigators’ work and the results of independent studies show that a number of areas are particularly vulnerable to corruption. As we know very well, this includes above all the housing and utilities sector, the consumer market, damage assessments for compensation claims following natural disasters, and the construction and repair of various sites.
According to our institutes, including the Interior Ministry’s institute, businesspeople hoping to secure profitable contracts in these sectors need to pay kickbacks of 30 and sometimes even 50 percent. In some regions the ‘bribe and kickback rates’ are well known and are even adjusted for inflation. It would be enough to make you laugh if it were not so sad.
I therefore also want to hear your proposals on measures we could take to reduce the level of corruption in these sectors. This also applies in full to anti-corruption measures to protect the big infrastructure projects that we are carrying out or planning.
Of course, one of our most important tasks is to raise people’s legal awareness. Anti-corruption standards of behaviour based on knowledge of general rights and obligations must be the norm for everyone. The public and the business community are right to demand that the authorities comply strictly with these rules. At the same time though, they sometimes stand on passively and watch, and indeed sometimes even nudge the authorities into corruption in a bid to ‘settle’ matters related to their own business interests.
I remind you that the law now contains provisions requiring all business and non-profit organisations to take anti-corruption measures. Let me stress though that legal provisions and having the demands set out on paper are not enough. We need to create a public climate that rejects corruption. We have already spoken about this many times. Among other things, this requires us to build reliable channels for feedback between the public and authorities. Every signal about corruption cases or signs of corruption should get an adequate response.
In conclusion, let me say again that we can make our anti-corruption work more effective and achieve real results in reducing corruption in society only through consistent, systemic action. All of the measures we take must be of precisely this kind.