President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev: Good afternoon!
This is the second meeting of the Anti-Corruption Council. It is dedicated to the implementation of the anti-corruption strategy that we discussed and which has been approved. Of course now we can discuss some of the results already achieved. They have thus far been modest in the extreme but we must nevertheless keep moving ahead. Our work is worthwhile in the sense that little by little, within the realm of the possible, we keep trying to improve things and refuse to throw up our hands.
Let me remind you that at the last Council meeting we approved a package of anti-corruption laws. They have already been adopted and have entered into force. The federal and regional authorities have approved relevant plans of action, a system for monitoring these activities has started to function, and the legal framework created by our labours has already begun to show signs of life.
Of course it is important to keep up the pace and to monitor the application of these laws. This is the most important thing but it is also the most difficult, because in effect applying these laws involves us in the very fight against the corruption that we are trying to deal with.
Of course it is very important to adopt subordinate legislation that would ensure the realisation of the package of anti-corruption laws. I am talking about innovative technologies for public administrators; rules that ensure administrative transparency; issues involved in the transition to electronic trading and to the latest technologies for the disposal of assets subject to forfeiture and other types of property that in effect have to be sold by the state; the creation of a state legal aid office and Internet sites — in short, all those issues that we have agreed are important.
At this meeting, I suggest that we confine ourselves to the problems that require prompt action. First, there is the system of anti-corruption expert assessments concerning laws our country has adopted as well as of course subordinate legislation. These will act in effect as a kind of filter for the municipal, regional and federal authorities.
We have repeatedly discussed the question of different views and different interpretations and the gaps in the regulatory structures that increase the risk of corrupt practices, which is why we must pay such careful attention to these expert assessments. They should be completely free of bias and conducted in an ongoing, systematic manner. The Cabinet has already approved the rules relevant to the expert assessments of the regulatory framework. This will also help identify the factors in the subordinate legislation that contribute to corruption.
This is only part of the work and today we should discuss the draft federal law on anti-corruption expert assessment of legislative initiatives. This is because as a rule legislative initiatives can embody the best aspirations of lobbying, but in the worst case scenario they can be the means by which corruption flourishes. Therefore, the bill can make an important contribution to this process, but only if it is a valid bill, only if it is sufficiently clear and effective, and not merely a collection of pious hopes.
The second issue that we will be looking at is the procedures involving state and municipal officials as well as those individuals who hold public office positions, the rules that require them to give information about their personal assets and the incomes of their family members. Let me draw your attention to the need to not only adopt procedures for submitting such information, but also to develop a mechanism to verify the accuracy and completeness of the information involved in such financial disclosures. We currently have no such mechanism. The subject is complex and somewhat sensitive but we need to move in this direction.
In addition we need to introduce rules governing the employment of those who used to take up public office, as well as state and municipal employees after their official retirement. And this applies not only to civil servants but also to the military, and those who work for law enforcement agencies. You will recall the rules that are part of the anti-corruption package, the ones that allow employment only with the consent of the commission on strictures concerning the conduct of public officers and the resolution of conflicts of interest. But this general requirement does not yet exist as a genuine, functioning mechanism — we have to create it.
As you can see, we are talking about a whole system of pre-emptive measures, as indicated by the relevant United Nations Convention and the European Union Convention on the Fight against Corruption. For this purpose, we have also developed a package of draft decrees. These decrees will determine the range of persons who are required to submit the above information.
I think that rules concerning this kind of information should apply to everyone, including the President of the Russian Federation: the President should be obliged to comply, in the same way that all the other citizens who are in government service and occupy official positions do, and do so on an annual basis. There are no regulations on this subject – we have to introduce them. I will be preparing such regulations.
I think that this sort of annual disclosure on the part of the President will at least to some extent encourage individuals who take up public office as well as federal government officials to comply with the appropriate legislation.
We should pay very careful attention to the work of commissions on strictures concerning the conduct of public officers and the resolution of conflicts of interest. As we agreed and as the law requires, such a commission must be established for each government agency, and this will involve some organisational work in creating these commissions, training those who have to carry out this work, and supplying them with all the necessary materials and documents. This is a separate issue that we will have to deal with.
This sort of commission was in principle part of previous legislation on public service, but it has to be admitted that they never played any significant role. Our responsibility is to make sure that these commissions get up and running, that they are listened to, and that they receive the information they require. Refusing to cooperate with a commission or ignoring the requirements of the law must be unconditional grounds for dismissal from government service.
In addition, the Presidential Executive Office has prepared a draft decree on the approval of a five-year Federal Programme for the Reform and Development of Civil Service in the Russian Federation. I will be signing that decree today. This is part of a large project that began not today but several years ago (when I was part of the Presidential Executive Office I was involved in it). I cannot say that we have made fantastic progress. The only thing that we have been able to do in recent years is to create a more or less transparent and accountable modern system of legislation on public service. It is not ideal, but at least it is very different from what we had in the early 90s. In that sense this Federal Programme for the Development of the Civil Service should contribute to this process.
Of course the reform of the civil service should be first and foremost designed to prevent corruption. For this reason the requirements of anti-corruption legislation have to be taken into account when selecting candidates for vacant positions. As I have already said, the crisis that we are currently in presents us with a good opportunity to deal with inefficient public servants. The control of corruption is especially important.
Even though we have to turn a blind eye to some things in times of crisis, of course the issue of corruption is the most difficult and thus, perhaps, the most sensitive issue that we face, because at a time when the country is going through some very serious economic problems, those who trying to take advantage of this situation should of course be expelled from government service. We have to get rid of such public servants without delay.
Dear colleagues, we must carry out this difficult task and continue to develop our regulatory framework. It is good that what we have already achieved has a regulatory aspect: the Anti-Corruption Council is working, and there is the Council's Presidium. Of course the issue is not to over-organize things, not to make it all bureaucratic, not to turn this work into a bunch of memos of the sort that we know all too well and which we come across all too often in the public service.
Nevertheless, in this systematic treatment I can see evidence of a general will to combat the phenomenon of corruption. We must not ignore this subject no matter what, no matter what crises we have, what political issues come up, what business environment develops, or what other issues we have to confront. This subject must receive our sustained attention, because this problem is a profound and important one.