President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev: Good afternoon, colleagues,
Today we hold the third meeting of the Council for Countering Corruption, not counting the meetings of the Council Board which I am told are conducted on a regular basis. We will be reviewing the National Anti-Corruption Plan implementation and of course we will be discussing priorities for the near future.
Incidentally, today we have with us some new members of the Council [for Countering Corruption] whom I have just appointed. I expect the involvement of civil society representatives will help us to produce better results.
Since the inception of the Council – as I recall it was in May 2008 — and the approval of the National Anti-Corruption Plan in July of that year, almost two years have gone by. What have we accomplished together? There is at least one thing we have been able to do, namely, we have created a regulatory environment. Hence the legal framework which should become the backbone for countering corruption in the immediate future is now in place, as a matter of fact.
We have also launched the mechanisms for assessing legal acts as far as their vulnerability to corrupt practices is concerned, and to date, 800,000 different laws and drafts have been so assessed.
By the way, I would like to be briefed on what proportion of the total legislation this represents. Are we capable of assessing the entire legislation currently in existence, i.e. both the laws in force and the draft bills?
Lawmaking is a living, creative and ongoing process. There are many legislative acts adopted in the country, not laws and acts of parliament only, but also regional laws and by-laws. Of course this work [of potential corrupt practices assessment] must be continued. There has been a whole series of anti-corruption activities at the federal and regional levels, but we will discuss this at greater length later on.
What was the subject of general discussion and heightened public attention is information about income and assets, which must now be provided by all public servants and officials who hold public office, in line with the executive orders [of the President] that were signed last year. This year employees of the Presidential Executive Office will be reporting on their income and assets too, and in the near future all these details will be in the public domain.
All other public servants who must submit (and in some cases publish) such information in accordance with presidential executive orders will be obliged to do this. The whole country will be watching this closely, for obvious reasons. It is of great interest and not just because people like to gossip. I think this is an important means — though not a panacea of course – of countering corruption.
We need to review our plans for the near future. A National Strategy for Countering Corruption has been drafted to identify the main aspects of our country’s anti-corruption policy. This is a core document, designed for the long term. But of course what is much more important than policy concepts, than documents, than even those laws that have been adopted over the past two years (and these are essential because for a long time there was no regulatory framework to speak of), is the overall state of affairs, the attitudes to this phenomenon in our country, in the government, among the bureaucracy and among ordinary people. This is probably the most difficult issue, so let’s discuss all these topics. We have a number of speakers scheduled. Subsequently, I will have my say and sum up our conversation.
I give the floor to Chief of Staff of the Presidential Executive Office Sergei Naryshkin for the main report.
Chief of Staff of the Presidential Executive office Sergei Naryshkin: Mr President, Council members,
The subject of my report is the results of the National Anti-Corruption Plan implementation. The plan was adopted in July 2008, and essentially represents the country’s first large-scale and systemic anti-corruption programme.
Much work has been done since then to carry out the tasks this document sets. Practically all the work on establishing the legal framework for fighting corruption has been completed. In 2008, a package of anti-corruption laws was passed, including the basic Federal Law On Preventing Corruption. A number of Presidential Executive Orders have been issued to expand on these laws, setting out the procedures for checks and publication of information on civil servants’ income and assets, along with the basic principles of the code of conduct introduced for civil servants.
Work has taken place at every level of state administration to implement these orders. Systematised collection of information on civil servants’ incomes has been organised, ministerial orders have been issued regulating the mechanisms for verifying the accuracy of this data, and decisions have been made regarding the form in which this information is published on official ministerial sites. Starting from the second half of April this information will be made open to the public.
In order to fulfil Russia’s obligations as a party to international anti-corruption conventions, a provision has been added to the Criminal Code making it possible to prosecute foreign officials and officials of public international organisations for corruption-related crimes. Amendments have been made to the Code of Administrative Offences under which legal entities will face administrative liability for corruption-related breaches of the law. Thus, Russian legislation has taken on board the modern instruments that other developed countries are using to fight corruption.
On the Council’s decision laws on anti-corruption evaluation of regulations were drafted and passed. Under their provisions, in the past year alone, Prosecutor’s Office and Justice Ministry officials have evaluated more than 800,000 legal acts and regulations and their drafts, and have identified around 48,000 corruption risks. Increasingly active use is being made of independent specialists in the evaluation process. In 2009, the Justice Ministry engaged 577 individual specialists and 92 organisations as experts in this work.
Improving the organisational basis for fighting corruption is another area of the National Plan’s implementation. All state agencies have introduced special units in their human resources departments to work on preventing corruption and other breaches of the law. The Council’s Presidium monitors their work. A number of meetings on improving the methodological base for their work will take place this year.
The commissions on observing civil servants’ compliance with the code of conduct and on resolving a conflict of interest also have an important part to play in corruption prevention efforts. These commissions have already been set up and have begun work in the federal civil service agencies. In 2009, they identified more than 1,300 violations, imposed disciplinary penalties on 214 people, and handed over information on 29 cases to the law enforcement agencies. Similar commissions are working now in the regions, and are in the process of being set up at municipal level too.
The Council’s Presidium has drafted methodological guidelines for organising their work, and a draft presidential executive order will soon be presented, defining the legal framework for these commissions’ work in relation to all types of civil service.
The National Plan’s implementation places particular emphasis on law enforcement measures for countering corruption. The Interior Ministry and Prosecutor General’s Office have established specialised subdivisions to work in this area. We hope that they will become more professional and effective with every passing year.
The prosecutors have stepped up supervision of the way the agencies carrying out search and operations work and investigating criminal cases involving corruption enforce the laws. Checks have been made into compliance with anti-corruption laws at all levels of state and municipal administration. More than 263,000 breaches of the laws on civil and municipal service and anti-corruption laws were revealed in 2009. This is up by a quarter on the figure for 2008.
By concentrating their efforts on corruption prevention in 2009, the law enforcement agencies registered 6.5 percent more crimes against civil and municipal service in 2009, compared to 2008, and five percent more cases of bribery. A total of 13,000 cases of bribery were registered last year.
The number of senior officials in state and local government bodies brought to answer for violations also increased last year. Charges were laid against the acting deputy prime minister of the Republic of Karelia, the deputy governor of Kurgan Region, deputy governors in Bryansk, Volgograd and Orel Regions, regional government officials in Amur and Novosibirsk Regions, and the chairman of the Stavropol Territory Duma.
All of this is the result of focused and effective work by the law enforcement agencies to detect and prevent corruption-related crimes.
We still have a serious problem with raiders. According to Interior Ministry data, 53 crimes involving raider attacks on assets were investigated in 2009, 15 of which were sent to the courts for examination, and the plaintiffs were paid damages totalling 268 million rubles.
In order to fight raider attacks more effectively and prevent the conditions that give rise to them, on the President’s instruction a draft law has been drawn up on amending the Criminal and Criminal Procedural Codes. The proposed amendments would establish criminal liability for falsifying registers of legal entities and general shareholders’ meetings’ decisions. Once the required procedures have been gone through this draft law will be sent to the State Duma.
Particular emphasis has been placed on removing administrative barriers that infringe on entrepreneurs’ lawful rights. Amendments have been made to the laws defending legal entities’ and individual entrepreneurs’ rights with regard to state and municipal checks and inspections. As from January 1 this year, the prosecutor’s office has sole responsibility for drawing up the overall schedule of checks and inspections by regulatory bodies. Unscheduled checks of small and medium-sized businesses are possible only in exceptional cases, and only with the prosecutor’s agreement.
The system for organising state and municipal procurement has become more transparent, including through the use of online electronic tenders. This system only started operation from January 1 this year, but its total turnover already comes to around 70 billion rubles [around $2.4 billion] so far. According to the Federal Anti-Monopoly Service, using this system will enable us to save at least 15 percent on the auctions’ starting prices. From 10 to 20 percent of all orders will be placed with small businesses, coming to a total that the most modest estimates put at around 200 billion rubles a year. Five operators have already been selected to provide the electronic platforms for holding these online open auctions, and full-scale introduction of the new online auction system will begin on January 1, 2011.
Administrative regulations on execution of public functions and provision of public services have been approved in order to make state agencies’ work more transparent and more clearly define their powers. The federal executive authorities have already approved 414 administrative regulations defining the deadlines and procedures for provision of such widely used public services as technical examinations of motor vehicles, issue and replacement of passports and many other services. The regional authorities have approved more than 3,000 administrative regulations in areas such as licensing specific types of business activity, holding large public events, construction work, and environmental monitoring.
One of the National Plan’s key objectives is to make the courts’ work more transparent. Each court is to have its own official website, on which it will post its decisions. All of the arbitration courts and federal courts of general jurisdiction have already set up such sites. A specialised data base containing the decisions of all 112 arbitration courts began operation in 2008. All court rulings are published on this portal within five days. Information on the decisions of all courts, including justices of the peace, is to be published with open access as from July this year.
Work continues on implementing the National Plan’s provisions on raising legal specialists’ professional qualifications and carrying out legal education for the public. In accordance with the presidential executive order issued on this subject, state control has been tightened on the quality of work in secondary and tertiary educational establishments providing legal education. On the President’s initiative an inter-ministerial commission has been set up to deal with issues related to raising lawyers’ professional qualifications.
Right from the start of our work the Council Presidium has been monitoring implementation of the National Plan in the federal districts. I will give the main results. Laws regulating anti-corruption issues have been passed in 76 of the country’s regions.
The process of adopting regional anti-corruption programmes is nearing completion. True, in a number of regions – Amur, Bryansk, Saratov and Yaroslavl Regions – they are still clearly lacking in financing.
So-called everyday corruption remains a serious problem, as does corruption in provision of the most widely used state and municipal services. We are working to bring down levels of this kind of corruption by focusing the regional and municipal authorities on more active use of prevention measures and on public legal education campaigns.
I want to say a few words separately on the establishment of public legal aid offices. Their job is to provide legal assistance to the socially most vulnerable groups of the population, help them protect their lawful rights and carry out anti-corruption education work. There is ever greater demand for their services. Last year, specialists working in these offices provided qualified legal aid to more than 40,000 people, drew up 5,500 legal documents and gave more than 34,000 legal consultations. We will continue developing this network of public legal aid offices.
Finally, we are still in the process of establishing a system of multipurpose centres to provide public and municipal services. They will be responsible for many social support issues, registering property rights and property transactions and other services. We have already opened 66 of these centres around the country and will have up to 100 opened by the end of the year.
Mr President, colleagues,
Analysis of the National Plan’s implementation helps us to set the directions for continued development of state anti-corruption policy. It is in this objective that we have drafted the National Anti-Corruption Strategy. Adoption of this strategy will help us to meet our international obligations and enable us to draw our basic blueprint for future work.
One of the strategy’s clear priorities is to eradicate the causes and conditions that give rise to corruption in our society, and it is based on the key principles of preventing and combating corruption, criminal prosecution of those who commit corruption-related crimes, and minimising the consequences of these crimes. A new draft of the National Anti-Corruption Plan for 2010–2011 has also been prepared. It systematises the list of tasks for the state authorities at all levels. In particular, over the coming years, public control over the use of allocated budget funds at every level will be increased, and large-scale sociological studies on the effectiveness of anti-corruption work and the level of corruption in the regions and in the country as a whole will be organised. We will also improve the mechanisms for legal entities’ creation, operation and liquidation, monitor the activities of self-regulating organisations, and modernise corporate governance regulations sector.
Of course, this is not a full list of all of the measures to be implemented, but these are the priority tasks. We propose updating the National Plan from time to time, once every two years, adjusting the general outlines of our anti-corruption policy and adjusting routine work, where necessary.
In conclusion, I note once more that the National Anti-Corruption Plan and draft strategy were drawn up with the help of a broad range of experts, and practically all of their additions and comments have been taken into consideration in the resulting drafts. The draft National Plan and Strategy were discussed and approved by the Council Presidium, and I think they are ready now to be examined at today’s Council meeting. Thank you.
Dmitry Medvedev: Thank you.
I have just one question. You mentioned that courts, including general courts, have their own websites now. Am I right in understanding – keeping in mind that we have somewhat more general courts than arbitration courts – that these websites are operating and working openly throughout the court system now?
Sergei Naryshkin: Yes, this is the case.
Dmitry Medvedev: In all courts, including at the district court level?
Sergei Naryshkin: Yes.
Dmitry Medvedev: Good. Let’s continue work.
Dmitry Medvedev: Let me make few comments about what was said during the presentations.
Concerning corporate raiding (Mr Naryshkin [Chief of Staff of the Presidential Executive Office and Chairman of the Council Board] talked about this in his keynote report, as did a number of others): as far as I know in the near future the relevant document will be ready – I’ll sign it, and it will be submitted to the State Duma. This is the anti-raiding package of measures [in question] containing some new articles in the criminal law [in the Criminal Code]. These articles criminalise a range of deeds which will now qualify for criminal acts, that is, will be punishable under the Criminal Code.
Concerning e-tenders: a lot of right things have been said. We really do have to further develop the tender system, and it has to be said that this is one of the areas in which we have in general made some progress lately, some good progress. If five or seven years ago someone had told me that we would be where we are today in this regard, I would have said that we had made a great deal of progress in this area.
Nevertheless, we should keep a few things in mind. First, tenders are not a panacea. It is a common knowledge that Russia is full of crafty people, and they instantly come up with counter-measures to these [fair] tenders, and shift their own corrupt mark-up from the actual bidding process to the pre-tender phase. So the transition to electronic tenders in real time and tracking of these processes is important, but still not enough: you have to look at competitiveness and react to violations that are often complained about in addresses to various agencies and to me personally when people describe how these e-tenders can be manipulated.
As for administrative regulations, I am delighted that this work has begun, because for a long time we could not get it off the ground. I remember that back in 2001 we did the first wave of codification concerning legislation on public service, and then a series of laws were prepared and issued, but no administrative regulations appeared as supplements, not a single one. Now as I understand it there are already a certain number of federal and regional regulations, more than three thousand as someone pointed out.
Another subject about which our colleagues were talking: assessment of the cost of fighting corruption, performance indicators, the actual figures (Mr Stepashin [Chairman of the Accounts Chamber of the Russian Federation] addressed this). I think this is a very important topic. These numbers are not a panacea either. It is obvious that all these factors, these indicators should not be part of some sort of abstract approach, but elements of specific data. Nevertheless, we do need some systemic approach. What matters is that these indicators reflect something real. This is what I would like to draw to the attention of the Government Cabinet. Mr Sobyanin [Deputy Prime Minister and Government Chief of Staff], you have been engaged in this with both the President’s Executive Office and the Cabinet. We need to look at our criteria and perhaps attempt to optimise them based on those decisions that have been adopted concerning corruption.
Reference was made to the issue of concluding certain agreements with offshore zones, or special tax jurisdictions. Unfortunately I think this is unrealistic. The G20 is currently engaged in a fight against these entities. At whatever international event I attend, everyone insists that the number of territories with special tax regimes must be reduced, even though this is not so easy to do, not to mention the fact that there are certain advantages to using these mechanisms. But I think it’s obvious that we are unlikely to make the relevant arrangements with these entities. We need to approach things a little differently.
Another important topic that came up today is the relationship between corruption and investment climate. I propose the Government and its respective ministries should look at the problem from this point of view. This is indeed an essential element of the investment climate. Not so long ago we held a meeting on the matter and we must continue our efforts.
Concerning the improvement of our financial appraisal standards: this is indeed a problem. I believe that the problem we have to deal with is systematic under-evaluation. By the way, often those under- evaluations involve corruption when small appraisers who do not care about their reputation gladly accept bribes for actual misreporting. The whole world got into a difficult situation as a result of the problems related to financial appraisals made by the largest ratings agencies, in the most developed economies. So we have to monitor the situation, especially since this is an obvious place for corruption.
And I generally support the idea of harmonising our accounting and reporting. Let’s think about how that might be done. Perhaps it really makes sense to wait for the harmonisation of European and American [accounting] standards, and after that to draft a bill that will facilitate the transition to international reporting standards.
As regards promoting an anti-corruption mindset and legal education, Mr Zorkin [Chairman of the Constitutional Court] was absolutely right: we really do need to give this issue our due attention, despite the fact that it seems a rather lofty notion, unrelated to the specific issues of fighting corruption. Nevertheless, it is very important for outlining the principles of correct conduct and models for proper behaviour, let’s put it that way.
In this context, I think that the work of the media is very useful in this area. It should not be primitive and crude, but balanced and subtle. And the [TV] channel that was launched some time ago by virtue of the participation of many of you here, I mean TV Law, fulfills these criteria, but it has a rather limited audience. The audience will expand as the transition to digital broadcasting is effected. Naturally, after we make the transition to digital broadcasting, virtually anyone interested can receive this channel, but we need to think about how to use our Internet capabilities too. In fact many opportunities exist to broadcast the relevant programmes, films, post information on the websites of government agencies and the websites of NGOs engaged in countering corruption and generally taking an active role in civil society.
I think that one of the interesting ideas that was raised here today should be analysed in more detail. I mean the idea of proportional fines as criminal punishment for corruption. In general terms, for those who take bribes, for those who are engaged in corrupt acts, the most serious blow may be to deprive them of their property. But if forfeiture does not always work, and it is quite a complicated thing from the standpoint of criminal law and procedure, then a multifold penalty, a fine determined by a multiple of the bribe, can be very substantial indeed. I instruct the President’s Executive Office and the Cabinet to analyse this issue and look forward to their proposals. I do not know if we need to establish an upper limit for such a multiple, but in any case we need to think about it.
Last but not least on the agenda is the role of NGOs, non-governmental entities and basically anyone who is concerned about what we have met to discuss today.
Combating corruption evidently starts with an ordinary person who is not indifferent to this process nor willing to condone it in one way or another. So the heads of federal agencies who are with us today need to pay attention to what is said about this in public, to how NGOs have taken the lead in this uncompromising struggle. They must personally follow the situation.
Changes begin at the personal level: superiors must personally review the communications and complaints addressed to them. In effect, there is nothing extraordinarily difficult about it. I try to do it. Of course, I do not have enough time for everything, but if there is some kind of much-discussed subject, these days it instantly becomes public and is debated quite actively in the media and on the Internet. It is a simple matter for those here to pick up the phone and say: “Look, someone has written about this, come on, check out what actually happened, is it true or not?” If it’s not true, well, thank God, but if it’s true, give orders, throttle it at the source or take even more serious measures to deal with it.
Once again I suggest to those here today not to sit there waiting for me to call and say: “We’ve been informed about such and such – please check it out.” Simply do it yourselves. I appeal to senior officers of the government, ministries, and the law enforcement agencies: you know what I’m talking about. This is where you have to get personally involved in rooting out the details of corruption.
We must continue this work.
Thank you all.