President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev: Good afternoon, colleagues,
Our meeting today with the heads of our legislative bodies will address a topic that, unfortunately, is constantly relevant in our nation: the fight against corruption.
Two years ago, I set before you the main provisions of the National Anti-Corruption Plan. You are all aware of what has been done in this time. We have basically established the legal framework we need to fight corruption effectively. For the first time in Russia’s entire history, we passed a body of anti-corruption legislation, and today, it functions as a single legal institution.
In 2008, we passed the federal law on preventing corruption. In April this year, we approved the National Anti-Corruption Strategy, and I have issued a series of Presidential executive orders on this subject. Nevertheless, it is clear that no one is happy with the way work to prevent and fight corruption is being done – not our citizens, who see corruption as one of the most serious problems and biggest challenges our government faces, not our civil servants, not even the corrupt officials themselves. Unfortunately, so far, I have not seen any major successes in this area.
At the same time, there’s one thing that might be the most important: since we began dealing with this issue, nearly everyone who keeps an eye on what’s going on in our nation – and there are millions of people who fit this description, people who constantly come across acts of corruption in their everyday lives – they are saying, ‘Yes, the changes are few, but it’s good that they are finally speaking openly about this issue.’ Because just a few years ago, the dominant view was that it’s pointless to fight corruption for several reasons. First of all, because it exists in all nations. True, but it is many times greater in our nation than, for example, in Western Europe. Second, corruption is a method of management in our nation. Third, regardless of what we do, nothing will work anyway. These were the general ideas as to what could be done.
Now, both average citizens and representatives of the civil society, business and bureaucracy – at least, the reasonable ones,– all feel that we have done the right thing by embarking on this task, but I will say again: it is entirely clear that so far, very little has been achieved.
Still, we do have some results. This does not mean that we aren’t doing anything. Our law enforcement agencies have bolstered their work. The figures are indicative only to a certain point, but I will nevertheless cite them. Compared to 2008, we have registered more crimes committed against the public service, the interests of public service and local government services. The overall number of such crimes was 43 thousand, which is a clear increase. There has also been a 10-percent increase in the number of registered crimes involving bribery. Granted, we understand that there is a high level of latency, as the lawyers put it, in these types of crimes, and the overall number of such criminal actions is dozens, hundreds of times greater than what is reported. This is only the tip of the iceberg. But at least it’s good that reporting these crimes is on the rise.
Furthermore, last year, prosecutors identified over 36 thousand regulatory acts containing so-called corruption risk factors – in other words, factors that can provoke criminal activities. And indeed, a significant part of them, almost 90 percent, are regulatory acts issued by bodies of local self-government. Naturally, they are not monitored as closely, and the people drafting these regulations may not be as qualified as they should be. However, this does not mean that these factors are never an issue in regulatory acts passed at the federal level, and this is also something we need to monitor.
We are working in the regions as well. Every Russian federal entity represented here has approved anti-corruption plans, set up the needed organisational structures, and adopted targeted programmes. Overall, this isn’t bad, for precisely the reason I mentioned. This means that we are talking openly about this problem and we have begun dealing with this problem instead of hiding from it, as we did before.
All of this is commendable, but is it enough? I think you will agree that it’s not. Often, our anti-corruption efforts themselves are limited to energetic paperwork (including preparation of documents and regulatory acts which, of course, are important), and drawing up reports, holding various kinds of round tables and meetings, which is not bad, but alone, they are not an effective measure for fighting corruption.
Thus, I suggest that today, we share our practical experience in what concerns legislative support for fighting corruption, because some of the initiatives really are sensible, interesting, and worthy of widespread examination and perhaps replication.
For example, in the Tambov Region, draft laws submitted to the legislative assemblies are to be accompanied by draft bylaws. Perhaps this happens in other regions as well. It is good because this way the deputies can assess – while considering the draft law — how the laws will be implemented and by whom, how high is the risk of potential crimes or the emergence of the so-called schemes. Incidentally, this also ought to be done at a federal level. Our Government cannot currently work like this, but it should.
In Voronezh and Kostroma Regions anti-corruption expert examinations are conducted not only in respect of regional legislation, but for legal framework of local self-government as well. This also needs to be done, especially since, as I just said, the overwhelming majority of corruption risk factors discovered in draft laws are occurring at a local government level.
I hope that you will all tell me about other measures as well.
This year was the first time that we have made public the information on government officials’ personal incomes and incomes of their family members. This is a sensitive issue, and naturally, people have different opinions on it. We are discussing whether we need to expand the list of officials who must submit their income declarations, and whether this is an effective measure. In any case, it is useful.
Members of the Presidential Executive Office have released their income declarations to the public, as has the President (who was the first to do so), members of the Cabinet, the Parliament, judges, law enforcement officials, and governors. From now on, this will be done on a regular basis.
I am certain that soon, this will be symbolic of the quality of our democratic institutions and will make state control more transparent. It will ultimately help our society to become more open.
I think that this practice should be spread to the regional and municipal level as well. It would be good for our voters to see how the levels of prosperity of their elected local government officials and civil servants are changing over the years.
There is another method for countering corruption: increasing legislative assemblies’ supervisory powers. Federal ministers and deputy prime ministers speak in the Federal Assembly on a regular basis, and Prime Minister appears before the State Duma in accordance with our Constitution. We have legally formalised the responsibility of regional executive authorities to report to their regional parliaments. Municipal councils now also have the right to assess the performance of local governments’ executive bodies. I think it would make sense using these procedures to expose abuses and improper behaviour. And of course, we have the parliamentary investigation institution; so far, it has not been used as actively as it should be. Naturally, this is not a method to apply in any ordinary case, but nevertheless, it can be a useful, contributing element in restraining corruption.
The challenge of countering corruption is very complicated. But I will say again that we are doing absolutely the right thing in actively discussing this matter and demanding our law enforcement agencies to be more active in this arena. The corresponding cases are making their way to the courts. We are reforming our law enforcement system and encouraging our citizens to behave properly themselves, reporting the facts they are aware of and simply refusing to indulge corrupt officials. After all, as everyone knows, corruption has two sides. It is not enough to blame only the bribe takers; bribe givers are also at fault. And unfortunately, this latter group includes a very large number of our fellow people; not just those who take large bribes to officials at various levels, but also those who commit these crimes in everyday life without even reflecting on it. In Russia, we see things like bribes given to street-corner traffic police, which no law-abiding individual in Europe would ever do. But here, as everyone knows, this happens without a shadow of a doubt, simply because people believe it is ‘commonly accepted’ and ‘that is the only way to get them off your case.’
This problem is not only legal, it’s a mental problem too. It is a problem of everyday habits, a problem of legal nihilism and good behaviour among our citizens.
I suggest that we discuss these issues today.