ROAR: “Publicity instrumental in fighting corruption at all levels”

Vladimir Kremlev for RT
Anticorruption policy should not be conducted backstage, analysts believe, commenting on new proposals in this sphere.

A new stage in the fight against corruption is beginning in Russia, Nezavisimaya Gazeta daily reports. The government has approved model regulations on creating special units within state agencies “to prevent corruption and other violations in state federal bodies.”

The new departments will be formed as part of agencies’ personnel department, the paper said. They are supposed to take measures “to remove causes and conditions of the conflict of interests” of civil servants and keep vigilant watch on how officials observe bans and restrictions, it added.

Analysts, however, doubt that bureaucrats will now tell their senior colleagues and law enforcement agencies about attempts to bribe them and provide true information on their income assets. “An effective mechanism to fight corruption has not been created in our country so far,” says Konstantin Simonov, President of the Center for Political Conjuncture.

The previous measures taken by the authorities “have not brought any good,” Simonov told Nezavisimaya Gazeta. He asked why new units should be created in ministries or departments when there are Prosecutor General’s Office, the Interior Ministry or Audit Chamber. “The efforts of these agencies, however, have not been very successful so far,” the analyst said.

“Two new employees responsible for anticorruption control have already been appointed in the Federal Agency for Fisheries,” Russian News Service radio said. “As any department, we are interested in having honest officials and a good reputation,” spokesman for the agency Aleksandr Savelyev told the radio.

The fight against corruption is continuing in the agency, Savelyev noted. At the same time, the problem of corruption may be solved only if “the whole society changes its attitudes to the facts of bribery,” he added.

The idea of creating special units inside different departments is right, but “they will control incorrect information,” argues Mikhail Delyagin, the Director of the Institute for Problems of Globalization. People who have property may hand it over to their relatives and then they will not mention it as their income asset, the analyst was quoted by the radio as saying. In that case, it will be incorrect information, he added.

This kind of control will be effective only if it is maintained by people outside a particular ministry or department, Delyagin said. Otherwise people working there will control their colleagues, he added. In that case, only “insignificant officials would be caught while those participating in system corruption could avoid control,” the analyst stressed.

Meanwhile, the authorities have also started fighting corruption on another direction. So far the efforts “have focused on bribe takers,” Izvestia daily said. Now the Control Department of the presidential administration has proposed toughening legislation against bribers, it added.

According to Konstantin Chuychenko, the head of the department, “the complex of additions to the president’s national anti-corruption plan should make the situation easier for business,” the paper said. The new measures may also be helpful in fighting raiders because “all raider seizures are built on corruption,” Chuychenko told a seminar at the Higher School of Economics.

The possible changes may also concern publishing salaries and bonuses of joint-stock companies’ top managers, Izvestia said. They may be forced to obey the same rules as officials declaring their income assets.

Politicians and society may be able to discuss the new edition of the president’s anti-corruption plan in the near future.

Toughening measures against those giving bribes is “logical and natural,” said Dmitry Orlov, general director of the Agency of Political and Economic Communications. “Bribers should be punished as bribe takers, and businessmen give the most part of bribes for solving problems,” he told Izvestia.

Meanwhile, at least one businessman has already declared his war on corruption without waiting for the results of the government’s efforts. “I have decided to declare 2010 a year of fighting stealing, fraud and corruption in the private sector,” Aleksandr Lebedev told RBC daily.

He complained that he “has encountered corruption in his own business” and praised the state for “demonstrating good examples in fighting corruption.” At the same time, it is still difficult “to control abuses in Russian companies, banks and in the regions at the level of local bureaucracy,” Lebedev added. “Wiping this out is a formidable task.”

Lebedev considers “publicity” one of the main instruments in the fight against corruption. This opinion is echoed by Nikolay Smirnov, analyst of the National Institute for System Studies of the Problems of Entrepreneurship. “If anticorruption policy is itself conducted backstage, that means it is less free of corruption risks,” he was quoted as saying by Infox website.

While regional organs of power adopt legislation and create different anticorruption bodies they should act publicly, Smirnov said.

According to the latest report of the National Institute for System Studies of the Problems of Entrepreneurship, Moscow has the lowest “legislative potential” for corruption compared to other Russian cities. The rating took into account the quality of legislation aimed at corruption in regions and the effectiveness of regional anticorruption policies and expertise.

The institute started the studies of regions’ legislative potential in the end of 2008, when President Dmitry Medvedev signed the anti-corruption plan. According to the report, the most transparent regions are the Republic of Tatarstan, Astrakhan, Kemerovo, Kurgan and Penza regions.

Low position of Moscow in the rating may be partly explained by the fact that federal organs of power are situated here besides local authorities, Kirill Kabanov, the chairman of the National Anti-Corruption Committee, told Infox. But corruption practices are generally the same in many regions “because this is a form of the bureaucracy’s existence,” he added.

Other analysts were also skeptical about the last place in the rating for Moscow’s legislation directed against corruption. “I agree that many institutions in Tatarstan work better than in other parts of Russia,” Dina Krylova of the Opora Rossii business association told the website. “But I know regions where the situation is more complicated than in Moscow,” she said.

Speaking recently in the Republic of Kabardino-Balkaria, President Medvedev described corruption the main problem in the North Caucasus along with the remaining extremist militant groups.