COMMENT: Russia's anti-corruption blueprint

By bne IntelliNews August 4, 2008

Trust Bank in Moscow -

In the April edition, in connection with the first step by the President and new cabinet directed at reforms and the fulfillment of pre-vote statements, we touched upon the planned tax legislation changes. Then we noted that these steps are only a small portion of what needs to be changed in order to solve the country's economic problems. The good news is that other measures also soon appeared on the government agenda. The administration has decided to take on the most complex aspect confronting the country's economy in the post-Soviet period - corruption. Perhaps the first measure in the fight against corruption is the decree On Measures to Counteract Corruption signed by the President on 19 May 2008.

The decree ordered the formation of the Presidential Council on Counteraction of Corruption. Of course, the setup of the Council is still not a solution to the problem, but rather a development of measures, coordination of executive agencies and control over policy implementation that fall under the Council's power. In the month following the signing of the decree, the Chairman of the Council must submit a draft of the National Plan to Combat Corruption.

At the end of June and beginning of July, it became clear that the draft was ready and moreover the President was planning to sign it in the near future. Meanwhile, Dmitry Medvedev held several meetings with representatives of various parties in the Duma during which he repeatedly stated his wishes that legislators would set about the measures contained in the plan as soon as the beginning of the autumn session of the State Duma this year. The president of the Russian Federation stated his desire that the necessary legislative work under the plan will be completed by the end of the year. Moreover, the plan stipulates developing a federal law on measures to fight corruption before 1 October 2008.

What is the National Plan actually made of? Which measures will it provide for? In spite of the fact that while the draft is under revision by the President it is inaccessible, several details of its contents may be ascertained from speeches by Dmitry Medvedev. We would like to touch upon them.

The proposed plan contains four sections:

The First - Legislative provisioning of measures to combat corruption. Specifically, this section provides for development of corresponding federal legislation. In our opinion, this is the most important section as it contains a wording of the definition for corruption. In case the definition is formalized clearly, this will improve the practical component of the fight against this phenomenon.

In addition, this first section contains the requirements for people working at various government posts across the country, including in courts. Furthermore, this section contains a number of proposals for the prevention of corruption and the provision of equal access to the due process of law as well as a number of new legislative concepts connected with bringing into line the current legislature with several international conventions.

The Second - Streamlining of governmental administration. This is mostly a set of improvements for daily practices and routines for civil servants in which opportunities for corruption often arise.

It is proposed to introduce regulations in respect to property use and improve rules of government procurement. It is proposed to transfer a portion of the functions of federal government agencies to regions or to the private sector, as well as to improve the monitoring procedure including via civil society mechanisms. Serious attention is proposed to be directed to the measures to prevent conflicts of interest among civil servants and punishment in case such is found.

The Third - Legal education and training of legal personnel. It is proposed to actively use the media as well as non-governmental organizations in the fight against corruption. The qualifications of lawyers are also to be improved.

The Fourth - A set of top-priority measures for the realization of the proposed plan. This section proposes stimulation of the activities of government bodies at both federal and local levels to develop measures in the fight against corruption, expected to be launched by 1 November 2008.

Thus, it is assumed that the entire set of measures (apparently quite extensive) contained in the draft document will now be implemented before the end of the year at almost all levels of power, or at least at the level of legislation.

Despite that while currently the only parts available to us for review are quite general appendices to the National Plan to Combat Corruption, they seem rather well-thought-out and, upon their implementation, may have a noticeable impact on corruption. We believe that this step is very timely, and we also really like that the authorities are prepared to accept such complex solutions in a necessarily effective and timely manner. This signifies that the project currently being signed by the President has all chances to become applicable which in itself is a large step forward in the fight against corruption.

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