Putin seems serious about tackling corruption in Russia
April 30, 2013 Olga Doronina, special to RBTH Asia
The Kremlin, and personally President Vladimir Putin, has declared an uncompromising war on corrupt officials.
Russian state officials were first made to declare their incomes back in 2008. In 2011, the requirement was extended to cover the administration of the Central Bank and the Pension Fund, and also the management of state-owned corporations and companies.
From 2013 on, all public servants will have to declare their family income and major expenses for the previous year, proving that their lifestyle matches their official earnings.
Putin in early April approved the format of a special declaration to be submitted by those state officials who have purchased a vehicle, land plot, property or securities worth more than their combined family income for the previous three years.
Most Russian ministerial and departmental officers, as well as the country's leadership, have already submitted their 2012 tax declarations.
Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev drew 5.8 million roubles ($183,000) last year, according to his tax return. This is slightly more than Putin's 2012 earnings of 5.7 million roubles.
Both the president and prime minister declared fairly small property. Putin owns a flat measuring 77 sq.m. and a 1,500-sq.m. land plot. His possessions also include a Russian-made Lada Niva off-road vehicle and two classic Volga cars built in the USSR in the mid-21st century.
Medvedev's personal fleet consists of two Soviet-era vintage cars, a GAZ-20 Pobeda and a GAZ-21 Volga. His spouse Svetlana Medvedeva owns a VW Golf. The Medvedevs have a flat measuring 370 sq.m., and hold a 4,700-sq.m land plot on a 49-year lease.
The two country leaders' 2012 property and earnings appear modest compared to what some of their subordinates have declared.
Presidential aide Yuri Trutnev, formerly minister of natural resources, made over 210.6 million roubles last year. This was the highest sum earned by a member of the Presidential Administration in 2012. The greatest income in all the Russian government was drawn by First Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov, who brought home 226 million roubles.
Some members of the Federation Council, the upper chamber of the Russian parliament, posted much higher earnings than that. The top three wealthiest senators were Dmitry Ananyev (699.6 million roubles), Viktor Puchugov (523.5 million) and Valery Ponomarev (456 million). However the highest-earning Russian public servant proved to be State Duma MP Grigory Anikeyev with 1,110 million roubles.
Nikolay Kovalev, head of the State Duma commission for control over MP incomes, says some MPs have also voluntarily surrendered information about their 2012 spending.
In a further step in the fight on corruption, a bill recently submitted to the State Duma imposes a ban on Russian politicians keeping their money in foreign banks or owning securities.
Property owned outside Russia may be exempt from this ban but only if the owner submits a detailed report proving that the purchase was legitimate.
The bill is still under consideration by the parliament but the government has already hinted to public servants that they will be expected to transfer any foreign deposits to accounts in Russian banks by 1 July.
Furthermore, Vladimir Pligin, head of the State Duma Constitutional Legislation Committee, has said that the parliament plans to introduce a requirement ahead of the 2016 parliamentary elections for State Duma candidates to prove that they hold neither foreign bank accounts nor assets abroad.
The measures taken to date are already bringing some results. The ongoing anti-corruption campaign has forced certain MPs and senators to quit the parliament early amid allegations of their owning undeclared foreign property or engaging in business activities incompatible with their political status.
Previously, 322 state officials lost their posts over irregularities revealed in their tax returns for 2012.
Aleksey Chesnakov, director of the Russian think tank Centre for Current Politics, warns that the success of the war on corruption should not be measured on the number of sacked public servants alone.
"There is little point in debating whether or not the 300 state officials who lost their jobs represent a high enough percentage," he says. "Corruption is certainly a very dangerous phenomenon but the government should not become obsessed with fighting it to the extent of making this its sole goal."
The key mid-term result of the current anti-corruption drive, Chesnakov believes, is that the country's leadership, including Putin himself, has made it clear that there will be no cutting of slack for corrupt officials, who will be tracked down systematically and inexorably.
Putin seems serious about tackling corruption in Russia | Russia Beyond The Headlines ASIA
Wäre schon schön, wenn wirklich der Wille bestehen sollte, diese "Kultur" irgendwie in den Griff zu bekommen. Der volkwirtschaftliche Schaden ist groß und auch der für das Investitionsklima.