We have just completed a session of the Council for Countering Corruption, headed by the President of the Russian Federation. As you know, we examined two very serious documents. The first is the National Anti-Corruption Plan for 2012–2013. We also viewed and generally approved a draft law on monitoring civil servants’ expenditures.
I will begin with the National Plan. On the one hand, it has some continuity with the previous plan, which was in effect for 2010–2011. On the other hand, it includes a number of new aspects that have allowed us thanks to steps taken earlier to broaden the range of civil servants whose income and spending will be monitored.
I want to say straight away that in addition to federal, regional and municipal civil servants, we will be monitoring all staff members at the Pension Fund and all the social funds in the country, as well as state corporations and companies that were set to pursue the interest of the state. In addition, we have significantly expanded opportunities for media, public organisations, and civil society overall to monitor anti-corruption activities with regard to civil servants.
These organisations can submit written statements. I do want to mention that we will not look at anonymous statements, and a written statement does not mean it should necessarily be written on paper. It can be submitted electronically. What matters is the possibility to identify the individual making the statement – this is of paramount importance.
Such statements will be checked very carefully, first by human resources staff at the corresponding ministries, agencies, municipalities, regional administrations. If they see that something is off, then the law enforcement agencies, Prosecutor General’s Office and Investigative Committee will get involved and be able to take the case to court.
Besides, as I have said many times, it is obvious we need to involve civil society more extensively in monitoring civil servants’ activities, so for the first time, beginning in 2012, the Government is issuing special grants to public organisations specialising in countering corruption. Let me stress again that we have never had something like this in the history of Russia; this is the first time we are ever earmarking such grants.
As for the draft law, we are starting with some things that are very simple, and most importantly, feasible. It is impossible to monitor all expenditures, and indeed, there isn’t any nation in the world that does this. We are beginning to monitor only spending that is registered by government authorities. This includes land and real estate, stocks, and means of transportation.
The initial version of the law used the term “motor vehicles,” and the public (I followed this debate) had discussions on whether, for example, an automobile with 250 or 300 horsepower should be counted as a luxury item. We cannot forget that Russia is a large country, and some places are simply impossible to ride through in a car with less than 300 horsepower. For a long time now, it has not been a luxury item but a means of basic transportation.
But most importantly, the reason we changed “motor vehicle” to “means of transportation” is that we might have forgotten some of the most expensive ones, namely airplanes, helicopters and yachts, which are essentially means of transport and luxury goods. I think that compared to the above means of transportation I have listed, a car can no longer be considered a luxury item. So we used the words “means of transportation” in the draft law.
Furthermore, the draft law will be published on the Open Government website by this evening and we await suggestions from the people – I hope they won’t be too demagogic, saying that all civil servants should go to prison – and everyone will be happy. We really are awaiting clear suggestions, and we will summarise all the suggestions by March 22 and present a final version of the draft law to the President for signing and submission to the State Duma. We cannot wait any longer.
We must make sure that in early 2013 when civil servants draft and file their income declarations for 2012, they follow these new requirements, these legal innovations and declare their spendings on the above items.
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Another comment to ensure things are clear. On the one hand, we are to monitor expenditures, which we are doing, but at the same time, we cannot turn this whole process into a witch hunt, getting even in a figurative sense, which is something that, unfortunately, might be widely applicable in Russia.
So we must also protect civil servants’ honour and not allow a situation wherein civil servants who scrupulously perform their duties (and who make up the majority, I am convinced) will instead of doing their jobs spend all their time trying to prove that they did not do anything wrong. That is to be taken into account too.
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I do not really trust the many ratings, first and foremost from the West, where various organisations like Transparency International arbitrarily assign us a particular place in their ratings. We should therefore have our own rating system, and in my view, it should be applied to each specific region since the situation in Russia’s different regions varies greatly, as I can judge on the basis of my rather rich experience.
More so, and today I can say this for the first time, instructions were given at the Council meeting to the Prosecutor General’s Office to compose a yearly national report on the state of affairs in the fight against corruption. That is the first point concerning concrete corruption countermeasures.
Now, as far as the business climate, the investment climate, first of all, a set of institutional measures has already been taken. In particular, we have just set the Agency for Attracting Investments. I was invited to be a member of its Supervisory Council, and I accepted. Some other organisations have been set for the same purposes.
This task cannot be accomplished momentarily, and it will take far more than a year or two – it is a long-term challenge. This isn’t only about countering corruption, but also about developing adequate infrastructure. I know for a fact that we lose three to four percent of the GDP every year simply because of the underdevelopment of basic infrastructure such as roads, airports, modern hotels, high quality services.
I don’t think I need to explain to you what it’s like to visit Moscow, to do business there. You yourselves have spent time stuck in traffic jams, cursing the state of our roads and the increasing number of private vehicles. This problem lies on the surface.
So I am fairly certain that in the coming years, if we want to improve the investment climate, we need to channel far more resources toward transport infrastructure. Perhaps some people will find this to be a very simple, superficial suggestion, but I believe that, on the contrary, it is quite serious.
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Even back in 1999, as Secretary of the Security Council, I was lamenting that we completely lack civilised lobbying here in Russia. I am very glad that the National Plan, which was approved today through an Executive Order, states that the Government must by December 1, 2012 submit Provisions on developing civilised lobbying institutions.
Lobbying and corruption are very different things. You know that in the United States of America, professional lobbying is flourishing, but it is civilised. In our own nation, lobbying and bribery are perceived as one and the very same thing. Unfortunately, that’s how it is. We have already come to the point of designing our own national lobbying institution (there is nothing wrong about this idea since that is a normal practice which should not be feared).
As for countering corruption and monitoring incomes, at least with regard to civil servants, I have been filing my declarations since 1999, so it has become routine for me. I have already been doing it for many, many years; they are published regularly. You [media] always make your comments about the income declarations of each federal official, including me. But I am showing what I have earned in a year, it is no secret. For me, this is already normal. But we started with a very thin layer, so to speak – ten years ago, this only involved 20 to 30 top officials. Now, these requirements apply to tens of thousands of people.
Overall, things are more or less in order at the federal level. We have particular problems with corruption at a regional and, especially, municipal level. Why? Because nobody ever dealt with it before and are only now beginning to do so, and because there is simply a lack of specialists, including human resources specialists, who can professionally evaluate declarations, stocks and dividends at the municipal level. To be blunt, but for some at the municipal level, these are still empty words. They look at these declarations with incomprehension. I don’t want to blame them – people simply should be educated.