President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev: Sergei Vadimovich, I just had a meeting with leaders of the Federation Council. Naturally, we spoke about overcoming the financial crisis, programmes for supporting the regions, and the money that is directed toward this kind of support from both federal and regional budgets.
I told our lawmakers that they must attend to this closely, but this is of course, to a great extent, the responsibility of the Audit Chamber, because the amount of money involved is quite serious. Today, this money’s use has key significance, in order for us to overcome our current problems. The implementation of anti-crisis measures depends on the rational expenditure of these funds.
That is why I would like for the Audit Chamber to address this as a priority issue. I would also like for you to present to me your suggestions on what must be done.
Chairman of The Audit Chamber Sergei Stepashin: Dmitry Anatolyevich, in fact, I have arrived with a report on what we have done and what we plan to do in this year. I can give you a brief oral summary.
Dmitry Medvedev: Please.
Sergei Stepashin: First of all, we have changed the entire framework of our work this year, including that which is required of us by law – the surveillance of very large ministries and departments, and the preparation of audit reports.
We took all 295 items on the Government’s list that are to receive budgetary support, and for the first time, we will be auditing not only state businesses, but also private businesses that have state money.
Second, we have always audited regions that receive aid from the federal budget. The number of these regions is not going down. This year, despite the relatively small size of the Audit Chamber – we have just over one thousand people, as you know…
Dmitry Medvedev: You feel that this is small?
Sergei Stepashin: That depends on what we need to do.
Dmitry Medvedev: Good answer – it depends on what you need to do.
Sergei Stepashin: We have planned an audit of 56 regions. Believe me, this is an enormous amount of work. This includes problem regions, and those that receive the greatest number of transfers. All of the North Caucasus is mandatory. I reported very recently on Ingushetia. This also includes, of course, the Chechen Republic, and Kabardino-Balkaria. We already received a range of requests from deputy groups regarding the regions that they would like to audit.
At the same time, I would like to say directly that we will be working within the framework of the Law on the Audit Chamber, and I do not think that we should fulfil any political or other commissions; I know your personal position on this issue.
And third, as I already reported to you last year, we are working with representatives from the Government Cabinet and the Presidential Executive Office to evaluate criteria of activities, including those of the executive branch. The criteria have been worked out, and are now being implemented by the Government. That is why we are having a direct exchange of information with the corresponding agencies within the Government Cabinet and the Presidential Executive Office.
By the way, in the memo that I prepared for you, I suggest that you make a presidential decree so that we can work together more actively, including with the Control Directorate of the President of the Russian Federation. We do not need to do each other’s work twice, we have limited resources and no one is really looking to ask for new staff members, that would not be right, but there must be coordination in our work. So we will assume that your decree is already underway.
And, if you do not mind, I would like to personally inform you every quarter of the most important audits in places where there are serious budgetary investments.
Dmitry Medvedev: Yes, of course, we can agree to do that. The information will be presented to me once every quarter.
What else do I feel is extremely important? For Audit Chamber staff members and auditors to pay attention to spending this money rationally, because, of course, there are always subjective moments, but nevertheless, we understand that money, even the enormous quantities of this budgetary support money, can be spent in different ways – it can be diffused, or directed toward one item. And there is no one universal model: in some cases, focused support is needed, including for businesses selected by the Government. In other cases, this kind of aid needs to be given in portions. Any way, if the auditing authorities are not extremely careful with this money, today’s efforts will not be sufficient.
This is your task, and the task of the Control Directorate of the President of the Russian Federation; it is the task of the Central bank, which performs bank-related financial surveillance in our country; it is the task of other agencies that perform control and supervisory functions. You must work together in unity. And I feel that all this can have a powerful effect.
Sergei Stepashin: Dmitry Anatolyevich, we have, in fact, called this work “the auditing of efficiency.” We are not only looking to see whether money was stolen or not, but also, how effectively money is used. Indeed, that is the very goal of our work.