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Putin launches crusade against corruption

December 04, 2013, 17:23 UTC+3 Zamyatina Tamara
© ITAR-TASS/Anatoly Strunin

MOSCOW, December 4. /ITAR-TASS/. A new anti-corruption authority vested with a wide range of powers and duties was established as part of the Russian presidential staff on Tuesday. It is commissioned to control the implementation of counter-corruption measures at all government levels, help the president select and check high-ranking officials, including the Prosecutor-General and heads of the supreme courts. The administration will scrutinize legislation for conflicts of interests and check officials’ income declarations.

The country “has long been ripe for the decision,” Wednesday’s newspapers quote experts supporting the president’s initiative. “Another, thirteenth federal agency established with the aim to fight corruption will not dramatically change the situation,” say the critics.

President Vladimir Putin repeatedly said he was determined to root out the contagion of corruption “in earnest, irrespective of officials' posts or party membership, I want everybody to remember that.” His patience obviously snapped amid weekly reports about high-ranking officials — from the head of the Accounts Chamber’s department over mayors to universities’ deputy principals — detained red-handed for bribery.

By coincidence, on the same day the Russian division of Transparency International released its Corruption Perceptions Index, where Russia placed 127th on a list of 177 countries along with Nicaragua, Pakistan, and Mali. That was probably the limit.

Oleg Plokhoy, 45, was appointed head of the new anti-corruption agency. His surname is translated into English as ‘bad’, giving corrupt officials an unambiguous hint: “Nothing good is in store for bribe takers”. His biography merely confirms the latent message. He graduated from the KGB Higher School, served in the Soviet and Russian security services and holds the title of Honored Lawyer of Russia. Plokhoy has been with presidential staff for fourteen years and deputy head for civil service and human resources since 2010.

The head of the presidential staff, Sergey Ivanov, will supervise the work of the anti-corruption department.

The authorities are trying to resolve “the ripe, even overripe need for uprooting bribery and embezzlement,” the executive director of the Civil Anti-Corruption Foundation, Vladimir Ashurkov, told Itar-Tass. The foundation was established by the Russian opposition leader Aleksei Navalny — a vehement whistle-blower of corruption in the top echelons of power.

Ashurkov describes economic and political corruption as “the core of the system of government” in Russia. He has little hope the new administration will prove efficient: “It will simulate the fight against corruption, the way the authorities have preferred to act in the case of the former defense minister, Anatoly Serdyukov, who, for causing huge damage to the state budget, is now charged with just negligence not punishable with imprisonment under the Criminal Code.”

 “Transparency International’s rating of corruption in various states released on Tuesday has shown that the perception of Russia in this respect is hardly changing either within the country or outside. I am not particularly excited about Oleg Plokhoy’s appointment as the chief anti-corruption crusader — he is this system’s own flesh and blood,” Ashurkov said, adding his foundation was ready “to cooperate with all state authorities, if this helps make anti-corruption work more effective.”

The head of another non-governmental organization, the National Anti-Corruption Committee, Kirill Kabanov, thinks otherwise. “I am sure ... a counter-corruption authority has long been an urgent need. Its main task is to moderate and coordinate work of all public authorities in tackling bribery and embezzlement,” the expert told Itar-Tass.

Earlier, Kabanov was even more resolute: “Either corruption defeats Putin, or vice versa. But Putin is not used to losing either on the judo mat, or in politics. He is to win in the country’s best interests. And we, non-governmental organizations, shall help him.”

“The new administration’s chief instrument will be checking officials’ incomes and expense declarations. Checking the declarations of government ministers, legislators, heads of state corporations is a great deal of work to be carefully arranged for. Hence the need for a high administrative status of the newly-founded anti-corruption authority, a member of Russia's Civic Chamber, director of Institute of Political Studies Sergey Markov told Itar-Tass.

“Counter-corruption activity needs a driving force, a unit to consolidate efforts by all federal authorities. Now we do have such a force,” Markov said.

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