United Russia to candidates: show the public your money

Scrutinizing candidates’ expenses to be part of the fight against corruption
The ruling United Russia party is seeking ways to compel candidates to declare their expenses, following Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s proposal.

­The party’s leadership is sizing up two ideas. It could oblige United Russia’s candidates to declare how much money they have spent. Another one entails adopting a draft bill this year that would force all deputies and officials to publicize their income and expenses.

The party will follow the advice of its head, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who spoke at a United Russia’s conference in Bryansk last week, suggesting that the party’s members should publicize not only their income, but expenses as well. This would boost transparency and stop corrupt politicians from being elected to the parliament.

The plan to scrutinize candidates’ expenses could be seen as part of the fight against corruption. More importantly, the party should think of tools to implement the idea, Putin said.

The issue of officials’ expenses had initially been raised back in 2008, when deputies of the State Duma were discussing the first package of anti-corruption laws submitted by President Dmitry Medvedev. In the summer 2010, the idea was floated again by Farid Mukhametshin, the Chairman of the State Council of the Republic of Tatarstan and Deputy Prosecutor General Aleksandr Buksman.

Although State Duma deputies have never opposed the idea, they have not taken any practical steps, either. But they are likely to follow in the footsteps of Putin’s statement. United Russia may submit a draft bill to the lower house of parliament, the party faction’s deputy chairman Valery Ryazansky told Kommersant daily. Otherwise, the party would only oblige its own candidates to declare expenses, he said. First of all, the decision would affect candidates running in the Russian parliament elections.

The relevant draft bill may be prepared this year, according to Aleksey Volkov, who chairs the parliament’s commission on legislative measures to fight corruption. Deputies of all levels and officials would be counted among those having to declare their expenses, he said.

Currently, personnel departments oversee candidates’ income declarations. But it is not clear who will carry out the same function concerning expenses. Volkov believes that this should be the tax service or even law enforcement agencies – should there be any accusations or publications that emerge in the media.      

The Communist Party’s faction had earlier submitted a draft bill to the State Duma aimed at ratifying Article 20 of the UN Convention against Corruption. The UN clause declares a significant increase in the assets of a public official “that cannot be explained reasonably” to be a criminal offence.