President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev: Good afternoon, colleagues,
Today the collegium of the Prosecutor General’s Office is meeting, but it is not the first collegium of the law enforcement agencies to take place this year. At all of these meetings, the main issues of course are those of strengthening law and order, fighting crime, and guaranteeing our citizens’ lawful interests.
It is your duty to monitor compliance with the Constitution and ensure that government at all levels, federal, regional and local, and all government officials enforce the laws. One of the most important aspects of your work is to oversee conformity of subordinate legislation and regional laws to the federal laws. In essence, the Prosecutor General’s Office is responsible for overseeing and coordinating the country’s entire law enforcement activities.
There is no need for me to especially go over what is self-evident, namely that the Prosecutor General’s Office has been granted appropriate significant authority so that it is able to carry out its important responsibilities, and the standard of its work has to measure up in full to the high status its employees have been given.
Today, you are summing up the results of your work in 2008. To be honest, looking at the crime statistics, 2008 was not an easy year. This was something I spoke about this issue not long ago at the Ministry of Internal Affairs’ collegium as well. The total number of crimes registered has decreased, this is indeed the case, but nonetheless, more than 2,000 murders were unsolved last year, tens of thousands of people are listed as missing, and crimes of an extremist nature rose by almost a third.
Also important is that the economic crisis indisputably has an impact on the crime situation. Its impact is becoming stronger. One direct consequence of the crisis is rising unemployment, and of course a drop in people’s incomes. It is no secret that in this situation, violations of people’s labour rights often become increasingly frequent. I know that last year, the prosecutors brought to light and dealt with labour law and social law violations above all in the areas of wage payments and employment. Overall, 1,461,000 violations of the law in the social sphere were registered last year, and that is a big figure.
In this situation, your work needs to focus more than ever on prevention. Companies, legal entities, owed a total of more than 4.6 billion roubles [around $130 million] in wage arrears as at January 1 this year, and rather than falling, this figure continues to rise. Companies are laying off employees, or are putting their employees on a part-time rather than full-time schedule. This is taking place in different ways depending on the different situations, but in many cases it has involved violations of social legislation. This is an area where the Prosecutor General’s Office needs to take action.
Protecting people’s social and economic rights is one of your most important responsibilities. The authorities at every level should be paying their utmost attention to protecting people’s bank savings, supporting them in the difficult times and helping them maintain decent living standards. The laws in force stipulate the types, amount and frequency of all obligatory payments, and it is the prosecutors’ duty to ensure that these laws are enforced in practice, using their powers if need be, including filing the relevant charges in court. In order to improve the procedural mechanism in this area, I recently sent to the State Duma a special draft law that would give prosecutors greater powers to bring cases related to protecting people’s social rights to court.
I would like to say a few words separately on fighting corruption. What is most important in this area is to make careful but at the same time committed operational use of all of the powers the laws in force give. Efforts need to focus on implementing the measures set out in the National Anti-Corruption Plan.
What are the top priorities? First, greater effort must be made to ensure compliance with the law by the agencies responsible for search and operations activities, inquiries, and preliminary investigations into corruption offences.
Second, steps should be taken to organise checks very soon into the lawful use of state property, including money. The Prosecutor General’s Office has more than enough experience in this area.
Third, expert assessment of the anti-corruption laws should continue. I want to emphasise just how important this kind of evaluation work is. Legal acts that contain corruption risks have already come to light. There are more than 10,000 of them. But we need to take a common sense approach to this work and concentrate first on the biggest risks. In cases where serious risks come to light, they need to be dealt with immediately. Such legal acts should be repealed, and if they are still at the drafting and adoption stage, they should be rejected.
The package of anti-corruption laws that has come into force contains a number of completely new legal provisions that simply did not exist on our statute books before, including new provisions for administrative liability of legal entities for corruption offences. We are still in the process of learning how to make use of these provisions, and it is important at the same time to make sure that they are not abused.
I note too, that in accordance with Article 5 of the Federal Law “On Preventing Corruption”, the Prosecutor General’s Office is responsible for coordinating the anti-corruption activities of all of the law enforcement agencies. This work needs to be performed in thorough and coordinated fashion, without the bureaucratic formalism and other problems that we have encountered so often.
You need to pay serious attention to ensuring that government and municipal officials abide by the anti-corruption laws. This is the most difficult, delicate and important task. Of course, the Prosecutor General’s Office needs to make the very highest demands of its own employees. Everyone working in the Prosecutor General’s Office needs to be aware that they are working with the law.
Today, there is also another matter that calls for our heightened attention. I spoke about this at the collegium meetings of the Federal Security Service and the Ministry of Internal Affairs. I am referring to extremism. In many cases, extremist actions are directly linked to attempts to destabilise the situation in our society. We must suppress any action aimed at inciting interethnic, inter-religious, and social hatred. Those guilty of such acts must be brought to justice.
As it happens, you have the right to ask the court to close down public associations or religious organisations in cases where extremism is visible in their actions, or to suspend their activities pending a court decision.
Another subject I need to mention is the very worrying matter of the huge number of crimes committed against children. The number of such crimes has increased, and I plan soon to hold a special meeting on this subject. But I want to stress here that the Prosecutor General’s Office needs to keep particular watch on all crimes of this kind.
Yet another important issue: as you know, in response to the global economic crisis and the crisis that has hit our financial and economic system, the federal budget has allocated very sizeable sums of money for supporting the financial system and the real sector of the economy. But how this money is used is another matter. This is a question for those who are responsible for spending these funds. We need to make sure that these funds are not misappropriated. In other words, we must prevent any misuse and manipulation of this money. It is a lot of money that we are allocating, a lot of money being allocated in other countries too, and of course there are people who would like to make improper use of these funds. We need to monitor this situation, and anyone caught out committing such offences must be made to answer.
I am counting on the inter-ministerial working group on the prevention of economic crimes to provide important support in this work. This working group, as I understand it, has been set up under the Prosecutor General’s Office’s aegis and is responsible for these matters.
Colleagues, the effectiveness of the Prosecutor General’s Office’s work depends on the competent and responsible work of each individual employee and each level in the system.
I want to thank the prosecutors for their professionalism and commitment in defending the interests of our state and our citizens. I am sure that you will continue to carry out your duties to the very best of your ability.