Tech-savvy Medvedev to personally monitor bureaucrats online

RIA Novosti / POOL
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev paints himself as the scourge of bureaucracy. Now, he has a new weapon to help him get the upper hand.

Before the year is out, he will start personally monitoring whether bureaucrats are carrying out his instructions, with the help of a real-time online system.

The Russian president has frequently complained in public about bureaucratic foot-dragging. “Often, our officials will report that such and such has been done. But when you have a closer look, you realize that in fact nothing has been done at all” he said in March. His administration reports that only one in five decrees is implemented on time. Aiming to change such an unseemly situation it was then promised that by the end of the year the head of state will have a special system allowing him to oversee the implementation of his orders online.

The country’s million-strong bureaucracy is big, but ineffective. The World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report for 2010 ranks Russia 110th in the world in government efficiency, below Albania and Azerbaijan.

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin recently had to give official warnings to six deputy ministers for failing to comply with the president’s instructions. One has since been fired.

The monitoring system is scheduled to go live by the end of this year. It will be presented as a database of every presidential decree, specifically highlighting those that have not been carried out. Eventually, the president will be able to see the specific official responsible for the delay. The tech-savvy Medvedev, who has a personal blog and Twitter account, says he plans to use the system himself: “I want it installed on my own computer, so that I can see at the click of a button, what is happening with the decree, who is responsible for the delay, and what should be done with the culprit.” He added that there should be legally-binding sanctions for failing to comply.

“In most countries the leader does not have to monitor his entire chain of command” says Andrey Mikhayluk, editor of Hardware Magazine “Indeed, if the president does that, this will be all he does during the working day. However, if there is a particular decree he is interested in, this system will help him get it done.” Mikhayluk also says that a technological solution allows for greater transparency, and hopes such programs will be used for other government work.

Medvedev, who presented the system during a video conference, said it will also help him monitor the fight against graft in state procurement, estimated to cost the government over 30 billion dollars a year, and address problems with dishonest energy companies.

“The root of the problem is not the lack of technology, but the need for more political will,” said former Russian Newsweek editor Mikhail Fischman. “Nevertheless, we can see that Medvedev is trying to impose his will. I think when the president starts bringing to justice those that do wrong, that is when these systems will suddenly all start working.”

Dmitry Badovskiy from the Institute of Social Systems welcomes the new system “Medvedev keeps hammering away at the problem. The psychology of bureaucrats is such that only when they realize that this isn’t something that can be ignored or forgotten, then they start to do it.”

President Medvedev will certainly hope that is the case, in a country where the bureaucracy is often regarded as a law unto itself.

Igor Ogorodnev, RT