President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev: Dear Colleagues!
I think our meeting and the discussion of this topic, which unfortunately is such a burning issue in this country, is very timely indeed.
I will not go on at length about the nature of this evil, about how corruption erodes the very foundations of government and is everywhere today. It is clear that corruption in our country is a genuine, systemic evil which we must fight against.
As you know, on 19 May, I signed the decree ”On Measures to Fight Corruption“, which has set up a working group to prepare a set of proposals. I mean the Council on Fighting Corruption, the executive committee of the Council. And they were given the task of preparing in the shortest possible time a national plan for the fight against corruption. I would like to inform you that a draft of just such a document has now been prepared and submitted to me for my consideration. I shall be presenting to you some ideas taken from this document in a moment. But this is not the final version. I propose to discuss what will be said and what our colleagues have to say to us in their speeches.
What is the main thrust of this national plan? It is to prepare a whole set of measures that will help create a full-fledged, I repeat, a systemic, foundation to fight against corruption in our country.
What is to be done? The plan is in several parts. One of them is devoted to measures to ensure anti-corruption legislation and provides a definition of corruption, which, strictly speaking, still does not exist in law and about which there has already been a couple of decades of rather heated debate. The debate about how anti-corruption legislation and criminal law correlate, along with a number of other issues that seem purely legal only at first glance. The same section contains proposals concerning the prevention of corruption and includes special requirements for persons applying to take up the duties of a judge, public office in the Russian Federation or civil service posts, a list of which is to be determined by special legislation.
It also provides guidance concerning the need for full development of public and parliamentary monitoring in compliance with anti-corruption legislation and contains a number of new ideas. I will not dwell on all of them, because the work is ongoing, but I would like you to know that we are talking about reducing the categories of persons against whom some special procedure in criminal cases and carrying out investigative measures should be used, the principle of fair and equal access to justice is ensured. This position is outlined by the regulatory norms; should be outlined.
In addition, this will establish a number of quite important new statutes, such as the administrative liability of legal persons involved in corruption offences, as well as the procedure for disqualification as an administrative punishment. Both of these are unavailable under our current legislation.
In principle these are positions that we are imposing upon ourselves as the result of our accession to several conventions. I mean the UN Convention against Corruption and the Council of Europe Convention on the criminalisation of corruption. As you know, Russia has adopted and ratified these conventions, with your assent of course.
We are refining the requirements for judges and for persons applying to take up the duties of judges, members of the Federation Council, deputies of the State Duma, deputies of legislative and representative bodies of the state, those who work in the Accounting Chamber, Central Bank officials and some other positions that we still need to discuss.
There is a proposal to enact certain prohibitions — additional prohibitions and restrictions — on state and municipal employees: for example, establishing a ban on the recruitment for law enforcement services and service in the Federal Security Service for citizens with criminal records, or those subject to criminal proceedings with no provision for rehabilitation, or those dismissed from government service in disgrace. We have never had this before. Investigative units will be charged with searching out property to be confiscated, and there are a number of other measures that have yet to be discussed and which need to be adopted: through separate laws, in some cases individual presidential decrees and other regulations.
The second section of the document is devoted to measures to improve public administration in order to prevent corruption. This consists of some perfectly understandable things that nonetheless require a new presentation or consistent application in everyday activities, such as regulations concerning the use of state and municipal property, transfer of rights to use such property in order to reduce the number of corrupt acts, and improving standards that govern the procurement for state and municipal needs in order to avoid arbitrary interpretations, discrimination or undue advantage.
We have proposed measures to transfer some federal power to the regions while continuing to assess their work and the functioning of government bodies in the non-state sector, as a means of improving the functioning of the state apparatus and the creation of a control system for public and municipal employees in the institutions of civil society. Naturally all this will be deployed in a separate unit with a separate set of laws.
We also return to the well-known principles that were introduced in 2002, principles governing the conduct of public servants, in order to take effective measures to prevent conflicts of interest and, where necessary, to charge individual government officials accountable for failure to comply with relevant rules, and a number of other measures related to public service.
And, finally, in the third section are measures to raise the professional level of legal personnel and improve legal awareness in general. Here, too, there is an entire set of proposals on the use of the media, opportunities for non-governmental organisations to create the mindset that will lead to anti-corruption activities, measures to improve the teaching of legal discipline and a reduction in the number of law faculties that do not meet the requirements established by the Ministry — in short, everything that you already know about.
In this way, after the adoption of the plan – and this is why I believe our meeting today is so important — we will get on with the legal counterpart of the plan so that within the next six months there will be a new set of laws adopted at the federal level, as well as in the various regions of the Russian Federation that you represent. This is a large and very serious task. I would like you to start getting prepared for it already. Some of these laws might create tension and some might be interpreted in various ways. We must minimise all the difficulties and enter the new year with a modern anti-corruption legislation that can be effectively applied and that we will not be ashamed of.
You know that in our country corruption has become a way of life for an enormous number of people. It is sad but it is so. In fact, it has become the norm, a daily occurrence in everyday life. People who are faced with such crimes are simply resigned to this. It's easier to pay than to cause problems, contact the law enforcement authorities or the judicial system. Those who take bribes and who are guilty of corruption consider the risks to be negligible. This must change.
I propose to discuss the set of ideas that we have come up with today. I would like to listen to your suggestions, and we will go away with the conviction that we have begun our legislative work to fight corruption.