Bureaucrats to tackle their own corruption

Vladimir Putin has appointed Mikhail Kasyanov to head the Kremlin’s new Anti-Corruption Council. Remarkably, Kasyanov also holds the post of the chairman of the Russian government. Thus, the state is making yet another attempt to fight bureaucratic arbitrariness with the help of the bureaucrats themselves.

The first session of the presidential Anti-Corruption Council, chaired by President Vladimir Putin, was held in the Kremlin on Monday. At that session the head of the council was appointed, and candidates for the council’s commission were proposed.

Mikhail Kasyanov’s candidacy for the post of the council’s chairman for the next six months was proposed by the president and the session endorsed it unanimously. Such unanimity is hardly surprising – all the members of the new anti-corruption body are government members.

In the framework of the council it has been proposed to establish two commissions: one for counteracting corruption and another for official ethics. The latter will consider issues linked to the conflict of interests between persons appointed by the president and the government. The former will be headed by Deputy Prime Minister Boris Alyoshin, the former – by the first deputy chief of the presidential administration, Dmitry Kozak.

So far, the anti-corruption drive in the country can hardly be called a success. A plethora of commissions and work groups have been mulling ways to tackle the problem for years, with the State Duma examining three draft bills aimed at eradicating corruption.

The head of state admitted that for the time being anti-corruption activities cannot be considered effective. “The authorities in Russia have repeatedly and loudly stated the need to fight corruption, whole programmes have been drawn up, and certain tough steps have been taken. But let me spell it out for you: they have not had much of an impact,” stressed Putin. “Empty negotiations, lots of noise and ‘campaigning’ in this sphere are absolutely useless to us. We need exact and realistic measures both against corruption and, more importantly, in preventing it,” Putin said in remarks carried by Russian news agencies. “Corruption is demoralising our society. Corruption is closely linked to the misuse of power, at all levels,” he said, adding, however, that laws should not be introduced “that can be interpreted in two ways.”

Putin thinks that the anti-corruption council “must have objective information on the scale of corruption and know where it has taken root most deeply.” The head of state told a session of the council that it should base its work on “unambiguous legal assessment criteria.”

The president also spoke out in favour of public control over the authorities and instructed the anti-corruption council to draft laws covering this area.

“The more effective and stronger our institutions of civil control are, the less chance there is of abuse of official authority either in personal or group selfish interests. Therefore one of the tasks of the council is to develop effective forms of public control over state and municipal authority,” Putin told the first session of the council. He recalled that “this subject has been raised on numerous occasions but still we have no efficient control mechanisms.”

The president believes that the council should come up with specific proposals in the form of legislative initiatives for the Russian government and president. In Putin’s view “the council must get itself organized within the shortest possible time and that includes getting on with the establishment of expert working systems.” He also suggested that one of the instruments of combating corruption could be raising salaries for state officials.

Commenting on the new war on corruption, many experts already agree that the council’s work is unlikely to introduce anything new. Georgy Satarov, president of the Indem think-tank told Gazeta.Ru that he doubts the effectiveness of the newly-formed organ, although, in general, Satarov hailed the move. “What Putin said there was absolutely correct. Indeed, so as to ensure at least some chance of curbing corruption, the country first and foremost needs democracy, and the key efforts must be aimed namely at eradicating the conditions contributing to the development of corruption. I am glad that the problem is acknowledged, but as regards the implementation and concrete steps, doubts emerge.”

Commenting on Kasyanov’s appointment to head the council, Georgy Satarov noted that who exactly holds the post plays no great role: the personality of the chairman is unlikely to have any serious influence on the effectiveness of the body’s work. Satarov is skeptical about the idea of fighting corruption by raising salaries for public servants. In his opinion, resorting to such measures alone, without successfully implementing administrative reform is unlikely to render any positive results.

And finally, Satarov noted, by calling for more openness of the state authorities, the president failed to mention a very important aspect – the openness of political institutions such as the presidency and the presidential administration. Council members themselves, too, seem to be quite realistic about the task ahead.

Dmitry Kozak reminded the press after the session that the council is only an advisory body and will not assume the functions of law-enforcement organs and will not examine violations by specific officials. The council will focus mostly on analytical work. In particular, it will examine the reasons for corruption, assess legislation and analyse the activities of the state authorities. The work of the council should lead to draft bills, Kozak explained., January 15, 2004

Categories: Corruption, Europe, Odious Debts, Russia

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