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Russia’s top ranking officials declare incomes and soon will have to declare expenditures

April 13, 2012, 16:19 UTC+3 Alexandrova Lyudmila

Russia’s top officials and government members have declared their won incomes and incomes of members of their families, for the last time before the inauguration of President Elect Vladimir Putin. Soon they will have to declare their expenditures as well. The move has been initiated by the outgoing president as part of an anti-corruption plan.

Practically all Russian media note that there is little change in the financial positions of both the president and the prime minister. More to it, their financial standing even somewhat deteriorated in 2011 as compared with 2010. It was also noted that the prime minister, who will be Russia’s next president, has been earning much less than his deputies in the recent years.

Thus, President Dmitry Medvedev’s incomes in 2011 stood at 3.37 million roubles (or by 7,300 roubles less than in the previous year). Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s incomes in 2011 dropped to 3.66 million roubles in 2011 from 2010’s five million. It looks like the ‘poorest’ among the government members is Defence Minister Anatoly Serdyukov, who only earned 2.8 million roubles, or by two million roubles less than in 2010. However, his wife earned 15.8 million roubles and his daughter owns an apartment of 293.6 square meters.

President’s plenipotentiary envoy in the North Caucasian federal district and Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Khloponin appears to be the most big-time earner among state officials, with his incomes of 484 million roubles in 2011, or twenty times as much as he earned a year before (23 million roubles). Analysts say this is the most sensational news of the current declaration campaign. Khloponin however attributed his so dramatically improved wealth to the sale of shares.

As seen from income declarations for 2011 made public by presidential administration government officials on Thursday, the salaries of Kremlin officials went up an average of five to ten percent, while those of government officials dropped by more than 20 percent.

As before, wives of a number of top-ranking officials earn much more than their husbands. Thus, presidential aide for economic issues Arkady Dvorkovich in 2011 hardly made four million roubles, whereas his wife earned 45.4 million roubles. If need be, presidential envoy in the Volga federal district Mikhail Babich, with his 2011’s income of 1.9 million roubles, may rely on a helping hand from his wife, who earned more than 71 million roubles in the same year.

The wives of practically all deputy prime ministers, with the only exception of Dmitry Rogozin, can boast worthy incomes. Thus, Igor Shuvalov’s wife earned as much as 364.9 million roubles in 2011.

“To make income declarations a really efficient anti-corruption tool it is necessary to declare the cost of property bought and all kinds of savings, along with bank accounts, which are currently subject to declaration,” the RBC daily cites Ivan Ninenko, an expert from Transparency International. In his words, it might be expedient to use electronic databases. “Should we have a system similar to that, say, in Latvia, it will be possible to process declarations automatically by their corruption risks to trace changes in the wealth of these or those officials. Now we have to do it almost manually,” Ninenko said.

In the mean time, although some people still take income declarations of top officials as an official way to indulge in a count-somebody-else’s-money game rather than a real anti-corruption tool; people, public organizations and political parties seem to be fed up with it. Now they want to know where this money goes.

A relevant bill on the control over expenditures of state officials was submitted to the State Duma lower parliament house by the president last week. The document is geared to see to it that official incomes of state servants comply with their expenditures. Under the document, a special commission on control of expenditures and settlement of conflicts of interests will be tasked to check all deals and income sources of a state servant, in case it has “enough evidence” that he or she stroke a deal in excess of his or her family’s incomes in the past three years.

The presidential initiative was met with severe criticism from the opposition. According to the Communist Party, the Liberal Democratic Party, Yabloko, Right Cause, Patriots of Russia and others, the bill is not very much accurate in determining the range of those who will be subject to control, neither it is careful in terms of purchases to be declared (real estate, motor vehicles and securities are not enough, they claim) and the circle of relatives to be checked.

The A Just Russia party claims the bill is profoundly wrong. Thus, according to Dmitry Gorovtsov, a lawmaker with A Just Russia, first it was necessary to ratify Article 20 of the United Nations Convention against Corruption, to adjust the Russian Criminal Code in line with it, i.e. to impose punishment for public officials for illicit enrichment and to set up a special anti-corruption authority. And only with this done, a law may be passed to determine who of public servants are subject to control, he said.

Meanwhile, also on Thursday, a United Russia-controlled Open Tribune expert roundtable meeting approved the presidential bill in general, on condition of its profound tuning. So, it looks like the bill is not going to be passed smoothly.

MOSCOW, April 13