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Level of corruption in Russia is down, but only slightly

December 01, 2011, 15:31 UTC+3 Alexandrova Lyudmila

MOSCOW, December 1 (Itar-Tass) —— Corruption in Russia is still high, but it has gone slightly down over the past year. Russia by the corruption perception index is in 143rd place of the 182 possible, according to a report by the international non-governmental organization Transparency International (TI). The reduction of corruption in Russia followed the adoption of a set of anticorruption laws, experts say.

Russia scored 2.4 points. Its neighbors on the list are Azerbaijan, Belarus, the Comoros, Mauritania, Nigeria, East Timor, Togo and Uganda.

The situation in other CIS countries is no better. One line below Russia on the list are Ukraine and Tajikistan. Kyrgyzstan occupies the 164th line in the rating, and Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan share the 177th line.

Calculated by Transparency International experts, the Corruption Perception Index defines corruption in the public sector - from "0" (high corruption) to "10" (almost no corrupt officials). The index incorporates all possible forms of corruption activities, including bribes to officials and their share in the distribution of profits from public works contracts, as well as illegal or improper use of budgetary funds. The rankings also evaluate the effectiveness of anti-corruption measures taken by the government.

As the general director of the TI office in Russia, Yelena Panfilova, said, countries with ratings less than three points are in the zone of very high corruption.

"The index reflects not only the actions that have occurred over the past year, but over all previous periods. In Russia, action was taken to fight against corruption, in the first place, anticorruption laws were adopted," said Panfilova.

Among these measures she mentioned the officials’ obligation to declare incomes and assets, tougher sanctions for corruption, and the introduction of multiple penalties. She recalled that in 2011 Russia declared its willingness to accede to the International Anti-Bribery Convention of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

The need to overcome the phenomenon of corruption in Russia is recognized at the highest level. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev at the beginning of his term declared that the fight against corruption would be a priority of its policy.

According to Medvedev, corruption is one of the worst ills of society. "Unfortunately, this problem is several centuries old, and we still have not coped with it. Corruption is one of the most difficult and dangerous ills of society," the president said recently, responding to a question of regional journalists.

At the congress of the United Russia party on November 27 Medvedev said that Russian society was tired of corruption. "Society is becoming more educated and open. Citizens rightly want to control the authorities, everybody is sick and tired of corruption and stupidity of the system, we all want justice," said Medvedev. "I am confident that we have a chance to correct this."

Under the presidential law on combating corruption that came into force in November all officials, legislators and upper house members are obliged to annually report their incomes, assets and property obligations. The law also clarifies the grounds for the dismissal of employees in connection with corruption-related crimes.

However, it is too early to celebrate victory, experts say. The head of the chief department of economic security at the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Russia, Denis Sugrobov, said last August that the average size of bribes received by Russian officials increased as compared to last year’s to 300 rubles (10,000 dollars).

"Three hundred thousand rubles is the average size of a bribe in business, not related to mega-contracts. This is the median estimate of bribes that businesses are forced to give to middle level officials. This is the sphere of state purchases," Panfilova said.

"Sociological research by our center and other centers indicates that a hundred thousand times more bribes are given in Russia than the official statistics show," an expert of the INDEM foundation, Vladimir Rimsky, is quoted by the Russian service of the BBC as saying.

However, as for the size of bribes mentioned at the Interior Ministry, the expert agreed. "On the average, our businesses have achieved this size of bribes. 300 thousand rubles or 30 thousand dollars is quite an ordinary amount to which our businesses are already used to. This looks the sole way of keeping one’s business going," said Rimsky.

In mid-June the sociological fund Public Opinion found out that in everyday life the citizens of Russia operate with five thousand rubles on the average - this is precisely the amount taken by, for example, doctors or teachers.

Sociologists pointed to the police as the fastest growing "corruption market": the total amount of bribes received by police increased 13 times over the past five years to have reached 16.2 billion rubles in 2010.

In the opinion of ordinary citizens, the employees of the higher education sector are in the lead in terms of "everyday" grass-roots corruption. Corruption in the traffic police is approximately as widely spread as it is in higher education.

Meanwhile, the Russian Ministry of Justice has decided to encourage those citizens who would report the cases of bribe-taking to the authorities. The relevant bill will be submitted to the anti-corruption council under the president. The idea to reward citizens for their cooperation with the law enforcement bodies is spelled out in the new anti-corruption concept of interaction between the state bodies and civil society institutions.

The idea is this: some law-abiding and conscientious citizen reports a case of bribe and gets some reward. However, only after the court finds the bribe-taker guilty.