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28 Jul, 2010 13:24

ROAR: Bribe takers try “to compensate risk”

ROAR: Bribe takers try “to compensate risk”

As the average sum of a bribe increases, the police have stepped up efforts in fighting high-level corrupt officials, analysts say.

The average bribe has quadrupled over the last six months, the Interior Ministry said. It now amounts to 44,000 rubles ($1,500) in crimes investigated by law enforcement services. In 2009, an average bribe-taker accepted only 10,000 rubles.

At the same time, the measures that have been taken against bribery so far are not bringing good results, President Dmitry Medvedev has said. He also called on Russians not to offer or accept bribes.

“Modernization is impossible without the settlement of three vital problems: the counteraction to corruption, the minimization of administrative influence and the development of fair competition,” the president said, speaking at a meeting of the Commission for Modernization and Technological Development of Russian Economy on July 27.

Medvedev, who put the fight against corruption in the center of his agenda, has described the issue as “a problem of everyday habits.”

However, the Main Military Prosecutor’s Office said on July 27 that in the armed forces, corruption cases have also increased by almost 26 per cent in the first half of 2010.

Paradoxically enough, many analysts link the increasing cost of a bribe to the fight against corruption. As risks grow, bribe takers increase the price of their illegal services, RBC daily said in the article “Inflation of bribes.”

“Bribe takers are now caught regularly, and they have become more cautious, rejecting small bribes and increasing the sum to compensate their risk,” lawyer Igor Kustov told the paper.

However, this fact is evidence that the work of law enforcement agencies has improved, a source in the Interior Ministry told the paper. According to the source, previously, mostly traffic police officers, doctors or instructors were caught in bribery cases. “Now more criminal cases are initiated against officials, and therefore sums in the cases have grown,” he said.

At the same time, traffic police officers are still offered bribes, the daily noted. According to a recent survey, one fifth of drivers asked officers to take a small bribe instead of imposing an official fine, the paper said. An average bribe offered to a traffic police officer is approximately $50, it added.

Kirill Kabanov, head of the privately run National Anti-Corruption Committee, agrees that the size of an average bribe may demonstrate the increasing effectiveness of the anti-corruption bureau of the Interior Ministry.

“Now they work at least with officials at a regional or municipal level, not only with doctors or teachers,” he told Gazeta.ru online newspaper. “If they are allowed to work at a higher level, and now, I think, they are not allowed to do it, the average bribe in such cases will be well more than 40,000 rubles.”

Nevertheless, the number of bribe-takers is increasing in Russia, Kabanov believes. “This could be explained by the fact that the fight against corruption, especially, in law enforcement agencies is being simulated rather than really conducted,” he said.

Aleksey Grazhdankin, deputy director of Levada Analytical Center, thinks that an average sum of a bribe, on the contrary, shows that the state’s fight against corruption is “not very serious.”

“Nobody believes” in this fight, he told Gazeta.ru. “Reports about bribes and disclosures are taken as another campaign,” he noted. In everyday life, the sum of an average bribe follows the inflation rate, he said. And according to the figures of the Interior Ministry, bribes offered to officials at medium level or lower are leaving inflation behind, he noted.

Vedomosti daily mention several reasons that could explain why the amount of an average bribe has increased. Police officers have been told to step up work in investigating cases of big bribes, the paper said, citing Andrey Pilipchuk, a representative of the Economic Department of the Interior Ministry.

In 2008, a special operational investigative bureau was created in the ministry. Last year, similar departments were created in regions, Pilipchuk said. Also, according to a new order of the Interior Minister, the growth of an average sum of a bribe is now considered as positive criteria while an officer’s work is assessed.

Pilipchuk also acknowledged that the anti-corruption campaign is forcing bribe-takers to take new risks into account and increase the “fees” for their “services.”

According to statistics of the third operational investigative bureau, the average sum of a bribe offered at a higher level amounts to one million rubles ($33,000), Gazeta daily said. During the last year, 156 crimes linked to corruption were solved at this level, the bureau’s head Aleksandr Nazarov has noted.

A survey by the Levada Center conducted in May showed that an average bribe amounted to just 9,000 rubles. Analysts believe respondents to the poll mentioned only bribes offered in everyday life.

However, Kirill Kabanov questioned this sum. The size of a bribe offered to a traffic police officer could range “from 500 rubles to several hundred thousand,” and a bribe to a teacher for exams amount from $100 to $500 he told Gazeta.ru. Taking this sum into account, the average cost would be larger than figures mentioned in the poll, the analyst said.

The Ministry of Economic Development has ordered a study to form a comprehensive picture of the situation in the regions. However, some politicians have proposed more radical measures.

The Liberal Democratic Party has even suggested branding officials taking bribes with special signs showing they have been involved in corrupt activities. The party’s leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky explained that the draft bill was submitted to the State Duma “out of despair.”

The authorities are not being successful in fighting corruption, Zhirinovsky said. “All the laws have already been adopted, all the information is out there, but corruption is not decreasing, it is growing,” he noted.

Sergey Borisov,
Russian Opinion and Analysis Review, RT