Proposal to fine civil servants for using imported software finds no support in Kremlin

© Iliya Pitalev
A proposal to introduce fines for state agencies that acquire foreign-made software has been questioned by Russia’s presidential press-secretary, who said the situation with laws regulating software was “working,” despite being complex in some areas.

“A balanced and reasonable approach is required here, without any conditions,” Dmitry Peskov was quoted as saying by RIA Novosti on Monday. “There are a lot of branches of the economy where our domestic products do not meet the requirements, and in such situations its hardly reasonable to insist through fines that [state agencies] buy our domestic software even if it is of inferior quality. Definitely, it is a topic where a very balanced approach should be exercised.”

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The Kremlin official also told reporters that in his view it was only natural that Russian software firms were proposing protectionist drafts. “Of course, the industry is lobbying its own interests and software users are defending their own working interests of applied character. For this reason the situation is complicated, but this is a working situation,” Peskov said.

The comments came after a Russian business daily reported that the Ministry of Economic Development and several other state agencies had proposed imposing personal fines up to 30,000 roubles (about $450 at current rate) on officials who purchase foreign-made software instead of Russian-made equivalents. In a letter detailing the proposal, the ministry’s experts said that of 93.9 billion rubles (about $1,4 billion) spent on software from the state budget in 2015, 77 percent was spent on imported computer programs.

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In November 2015, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev signed a decree ordering the creation of the special register of software made by Russian companies and only allowing state agencies to purchase imported programs after they prove that the register contains no analogues of what they need. The new rules came into force from January 1 this year.