Vladimir Putin sends signal to corrupt officials

President Vladimir Putin offers officials to report of spending and earnings. Source: ITAR-TASS

President Vladimir Putin offers officials to report of spending and earnings. Source: ITAR-TASS

New amendments oblige officials to submit a special form to account for their dubious purchases.

As the war on corruption among public officials escalates, new legislation will allow the head of the state to request that income and spending declarations be filed by any official at any level. The legislation also includes provisions for the protection of informants.

In 2008, a law was passed requiring public servants and their families to submit income declarations, and, in 2011, the law was amended to include top managers of the Central Bank, State Pension Fund, mandatory health and social insurance funds, as well as state-controlled corporations’ bosses and members of parliament.

In addition to filing income declarations, officials now have to report their major spending in accordance with the new legislation passed earlier this year.

President Vladimir Putin signed two edicts that outline procedures for spending and income declarations to be submitted by public servants, their spouses and dependents.

These documents follow the general logic both anticorruption laws that have been passed by the parliament and bills still pending approval.       

The new legislation on adequacy of civil servants’ incomes and spending, which was passed in early 2013, dictates that officials or their relatives who make purchases exceeding their households’ three-year incomes must submit a special form to report these acquisitions.

The purchased property may include land, real estate, vehicles or securities, according to the new law. Furthermore, one of the presidential edicts obliges officials to report the financial sources used to make these purchases within 15 days after receiving notification.

Among the major legislative innovations are the new powers vested in the president and his chief of staff – powers that allow them to request to check the declaration of any public servant, including municipal officers. This fact alone is supposed to give potentially corrupt officials a scare.

The Civil Service and Staff Authority will join efforts with the Presidential Anti-Corruption Council to carry out the inspections.

Moreover, the president’s orders ensure protection for whistle-blowers. In particular, the state will take care to shield them from “unfounded accountability” by paying for legal services informants may need.

Sergey Ivanov, the president’s chief of staff, is expected to report on the results of last year’s “declaration campaign” to Vladimir Putin before Oct. 1.

“The fight against corruption is not a fad, not a PR campaign, nor is it an attempt to distract our society from other pressing problems, which we certainly have. This is a long-lasting war, if you will,” Ivanov said.

Following the probes into the declarations filed in 2011 by public officials, 322 of them have been dismissed with a “loss of confidence” as the specified reason.

Curiously, the Kremlin is not planning to expand the list of public officials’ relatives required to file income declarations. At the moment, only their spouses and dependents need to report their incomes and assets.

Experts point out that this law is easy to circumvent by designating parents or grown children as owners of the property that needs to be concealed.

Alexander Hinstein, deputy head of the anti-corruption committee, admits neither the president nor his direct subordinates are able to examine each and every income declaration.

However, according to him, this possibility is in itself a signal – “the writing on the wall.”

“The officials who do not see fit to respond to this message must not hold public positions,” Hinstein said.

Public scrutiny findings will also be treated as a reason to look into the affairs of any public officer suspected of corrupt dealings.

“I may state in the declaration that I paid for my villa with the money I inherited from my great-grandmother, but if journalists or bloggers write I’ve never had a great-grandma, it could trigger an investigation by the disputes’ commission.

If no conclusive results are produced at this stage, it could be the president’s turn to look into the matter,” said Hinstein.

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