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Ministers, governors to be fined for failing to implement presidential decrees

The Izvestia daily today quotes government sources as saying that such amendments to laws are being drafted

MOSCOW, January 31. /ITAR-TASS/. Russian government ministers, governors and heads of federal agencies and services will be fined and reprimanded “for failing to implement state tasks set in (President) Vladimir Putin’s decrees of May 7, 2012.” The Izvestia daily today quotes government sources as saying that such amendments to laws are being drafted. The punishment, Izvestia writes, will be “for failure to implement decrees in time, as well as for substandard work.”

A government source told the daily that the changes are being introduced in line with the presidential instructions, namely the task set by Putin - to introduce into Russia’s state programs amendments stipulating that indices mentioned in presidential decrees should be reached and his instructions should be unconditionally fulfilled. In particular, provisions of presidential decrees will be included in state programs forming the country’s budget, whereas non-fulfillment of these provisions will be treated as failure to implement state programs.

Vladimir Region Governor Svetlana Orlova supports the measure. “I don’t see any problem in the introduction of fines for ministers and officials. It will prompt ministers to make more visits and spend less time in offices,” the newspaper quoted her as saying.

The regional head believes that personal responsibility should be introduced at all levels of authorities, including municipal. “When I became governor, I faced a situation when virtually no district or town head was involved in implementing presidential decrees, they thought the governor was the person to deal with everything,” she said.

Legislators are also trying to make their contribution to the fight for implementation of presidential decrees. The Nezavisimaya Gazeta daily writes that Dmitry Gorovtsov, a lawmaker from the State Duma (lower house of parliament) from the A Just Russia party, drafted a bill to supplement the Criminal Code’s Article 293 on negligence with an additional item on non-fulfillment or improper fulfillment of presidential decrees and instructions.

“We have watched Putin constantly interfere personally in various urgent situations,” the newspaper quoted the MP as saying. “And today we say it is necessary to build a system of responsibility measures - both criminal and administrative — to boost the level of implementation discipline, in order to make law provisions work rather than manual control,” he said.

“The May decrees” were among the first documents the president signed following his inauguration in May 2012. They mainly deal with the economic and social policy, healthcare, education and science, demography, affordable housing as well as improvement of the quality of housing and utilities services. In fact, the decrees contain Vladimir Putin’s election campaign promises, which is why the head of state introduced the practice of regular thematic meetings with top officials in his administration and in the government to control their implementation. The president said whether implementation of decrees was successful or not should be judged by how the quality of life changed rather than by papers.

At the end of 2013, the Finance Ministry reported that the budget lacks 10 trillion rubles ($285 billion) to implement the decrees by 2020. The ministry blamed reduced tax proceeds and revenues from raw materials exports. The president, in turn, demanded that the cabinet rigorously implement his instructions, saying Russian economic problems should mobilize the government. Finance Minister Anton Siluanov then pledged that the presidential decrees would be implemented in any case.

The Audit Chamber recently said it lacked finances required to unconditionally fulfill the “May decrees.” Auditors have established that interested departments have so far failed to agree budget expenditures for these goals. The housing and utilities sphere and the housing construction sphere face the most urgent situation: the regions’ coffers only have slightly more than half of the required funding.

Last year, the president often criticized the government for failing to implement his May decrees. In his Address to the Federal Assembly in December last year, the head of state said changes in the economic situation were not a reason for a revision of goals set in the decrees. Experts believe Putin reintroduced the practice of regular meetings with the government because he was discontented with the way his decrees were being implemented.

Weekly meetings with the government were a regular practice of Putin’s first two presidential terms of office. Later, the practice was abolished, and Putin only met with the cabinet to discuss major issues, for example, the budget. But starting from this year, the president himself proposed meetings with “the enlarged government” regularly, at least twice a month. The meetings will from now on also involve governors and municipal heads besides cabinet members and top presidential administration officials.

In a recent interview with Russian and foreign television channels, Putin explained in detail why he was changing the format of his communication with the government. “There is no Olympic connection here at all. This has to do with the implementation of our plans, which were formulated during the election campaign,” the president said. Sometimes, the goal can only be achieved, he said, “at the presidential level. We need to consolidate the efforts of the government, the presidential administration and regional authorities to resolve key issues of our economic and social development.”

Alexei Mukhin, the director-general of the Political Information Center, is convinced that the current reinforcement of the presidential vertical is because “the government is still looking for ways to justify the non-fulfillment of the May decrees.” “And it apparently hopes to try to convince the supreme authorities that it is impossible to implement the May decrees. But the president demonstrates that his intentions are serious by using the resource he has,” Nezavisimaya Gazeta quoted him as saying.

At the same time, the expert says, this is also a goodwill gesture. “If the government lacks influence to implement the decrees, regions do not feel interested and the government is unable to impel them, it means this will be addressed by the president. But the helping hand can turn into a vengeful hand at any moment,” he said.

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TASS may not share the opinions of its contributors