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Transparent schedule of checks for Russia’s businesses: pros and cons

October 08, 2014, 18:28 UTC+3 Zamyatina Tamara
© ITAR-ТASS/Vitaly Belousov

MOSCOW, October 8. /TASS/. Russian businesses have finally persuaded the government to create an electronic schedule of checks Russian companies are obliged to undergo. Starting from the middle of next year companies will be able to get early notice not only of any routine checks by watchdog agencies, but of any surprise inspections due as well. Polled experts have told TASS that although this measure is certainly positive, it will by no means eliminate the problem of corruption.

The idea of improving the electronic register of inspections which businesses should brace for, available on the Russian Prosecutor General’s Office website, belongs to the business rights ombudsman Boris Titov. The current problem is inspectors may knock on the door of any company any time, even though the check is not on the Prosecutor General’s plans. Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev threw his weight around Titov’s proposal for making the list of scheduled and unscheduled inspections transparent when the idea was discussed at a meeting with government ministers last Friday.

“The task of making inspections of Russian businesses transparent was crucial back twenty years ago, when the institution of private enterprise was restored. Ten years ago it remained as relevant, and so it is today. For the supervisory authorities surprise inspections are an excellent opportunity to put pressure on businesses to squeeze tribute out. In a word, it’s a real bonanza. Small wonder, therefore, the watchdogs in our country are thriving, in contrast to us, business people,” Nikolay Ogarkov, the deputy president of the NGO Delovaya Rossiya (Business Russia) incorporating businessmen in 71 regions of the country, has told TASS.

“As one of Business Russia members said, during a period of twelve months his company was inspected by 30 supervisory authorities — from fiscal and fire safety agencies to sanitary and veterinary ones. In a situation like this running one’s business successfully is just impossible. And it is very hard just to stay afloat.

“As for consumers’ fears, a transparent schedule of inspections will be a loophole for manufacturing substandard products, the measure is fraught with no threats to clients’ interests,” Ogarkov said with certainty. "Not a single retailer enjoying respect will agree to take poor quality goods from producers. Otherwise it will have to co-share the responsibility. Besides, all industries where risks to the environment and people’s health and life are particularly high enjoy the supervisors’ unflagging attention anyway,” Ogarkov said.

“It is common knowledge that surprise inspections of businesses are often used by corrupt law enforcement and supervisory agencies’ officials. But if the dates of unscheduled inspections become known in advance, the very essence of supervisory activities will be emasculated,” the director of the Globalization Problems Institute, Mikhail Delyagin, told TASS.

“Imagine I run some open joint stock company I opened back in 2006. For years I’ve worked in a happy-go-lucky way only to find out on the Prosecutor General’s Office website that someone has told the authorities I am a law-breaker. You can be sure that by the day inspectors show up on my doorstep my business and my papers will be in impeccable condition,” Delyagin said.

“The proposed measure to make any inspection transparent is part and parcel of the overall struggle with corruption. But you can never uproot corruption in this way: the parties concerned may conclude an amicable deal in that case, too. For this the law enforcement and supervisory authorities must be put in order in the first place,” he believes.

“Relations between businesses and the authorities must be transparent to the maximum degree. It is not so important whether inspections of businesses are transparent or unexpected. It is essential to ensure their outcome should not ever be predetermined in advance for crony companies, who are allowed to take any liberties they wish, and for everybody else, who are expected to live by law,” the science doyen of the Higher School of Economics, Yevgeny Yasin, a former economics minister, told TASS.

“Only on the condition of legal protection the freedom of enterprise can bring about a better investment climate and economic growth,” Yasin said.

ITAR-TASS may not share the opinions of its contributors.