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Corruption in Russia: Part of Local Administrative Culture

 

The popular Russian newspaper “Moskovskiy Komsomolets” in his Tver edition published the article “Demons of the Kimry’s area” on the 6th April 2011. The article’s authors told about systematic corruption in town Kimry and Kimry’s area that located in Tver oblast near the Moscow region and many of Moscow’s officials have got immoveable property there along shores of river Volga. The authors highlighted facts and data in relation to the local officials’ corruptive behaviour as well as power abuse of municipal immoveable property privatization. They told that in dubious transactions on immoveable property acquisition and apparently corruptive activities had been involved, particularly, the Kimry’s mayor, the Kimry’s area mayor (former officer of KGB), their deputies, and others local officials who are members of the Ruling Party, besides the Kimry’s area prosecutor, the Federal judge of the Kimry town court and some of the local enforcement officers. The subject of the article is highly topical therefore the one has been discussed widespread by people in Tver oblast and into Internet community and this discussion shows weighty criticism, public outcry and greatly altered public sensitivity to corruption. Probably, the federal and regional authorities were so shy in going through with the article’s data since no internal scrutiny nor external investigation has been done so far. As a result, in terms of transparency, people feel that authorities stop the facts and the information relating to the allegations coming to light. Why the prosecuting authorities haven’t even tried to hold the local officials to account?

Corruption on a local level thrives in shadow and is a perennial issue in Russia, unlike major corruption scandals which have been often politically inspired and charged cases. It doesn’t necessary to talk about the legal details of Russian anti-corruption laws since the ones very ineffective as known. While businesses have to deal with local authorities therefore it’s more important to look at the local particularities from point of view of market reputation for not to be involving in corruptive demands and in order to minimize such risks.

With the passage of time, imperfect democratic alterations in the society and widespread improbity of privatization when property were obtained in dubious circumstances, substantially changed public sensitivity to corruption at least on the local level. Sociological matter of arbitrariness in relation to public property and civil services, officials’ contempt of the rule of law are main contributing factors that have led to deformation of public sensitivity to indulged behaviour by local officials. Materialistic concept of success where power, money, status, family and personal connections, prevail over cultural and ethical factors and play the primary role on the local level. As example, it’s reality to hear from the local officials for the private talking that they contempt the rule of law and public opinions, since they have the power in this municipality and money and they have never parted with that. So far sound ethical standards don’t have upper hand and upright moral values don’t work in local public administrations.

Presently taking into account a public whole frame of mind, it’s rather complex creation of culture opposed to corruption and to use the one as the approach in fighting against corruption on the local level albeit outlook on values and ethical standards could be changed in the prospect. Because of that transparency as a key-concept in the fight against corruption in the local public domain mightn’t be an effective deterrent now but the one should be as spotlight, in fact as an element of anti-corruption regime. Certainty as to what the Russian government’s behest to enhance combat against corruption, don’t water down the situation on the local level. Instead to establish the forcible legal regime against corruption, the government has enacted regulations believing that by officials’ oaths, codes of ethics and declarations of their property procurements it could be possible to curb corruption but this an inertial approach is unworkable. To say the least in current situation people don’t get lulled into a false of the officials’ oaths and declarations, because an equitable making decision is still a lottery for the most of people. Actually the government only deplores corruption in municipalities, addressing the problem solving to the regional authorities.

The chief problem on the local level is a corruption-friendly environment including a weak judicial set-up and the prosecuting authorities, effectiveness of which are often crippled by family and personal connections of corruptive officials. There is widespread practice when the one spouse is a prosecutor and the other spouse is a senior police officer or a municipal official or there are other relationships into the municipal authorities articulating the positions they held. Apparently that it is inconsistent with crucial fighting against corruption. The next issue is the corporate hospitality of the officials of regional authorities who don’t want to bring charges against corruptive colleagues in the municipalities under the any veil, loopholes and opportunities. What makes this interesting is that having a huge number of data in relation corruptive behaviour of local officials and citizens’ complaints for that, there is the paucity of filed criminal charges of corrupt misusing. They often refer to insufficient evidence to prosecute and abandon to bring charges to pigeonhole the complaints even though it emerges the matter of connections between local officials and organized criminals, or this issue becomes apparent in the process of municipal property privatization and there are allegations of serious misconduct.

The sticking point is the leverage of anti-bribery and misusing protections for businesses. And the cultural and ethical factors have a strong impact on quality of local public administration involving investigating authorities since fairness of making decisions process depends on officials’ ethical stance as befits of their positions. In light of this ethical dimension in corruption problem solving is an important part as well.

It is no doubt that Russia is in need of a new, modern anti-corruption strategy and legislation as well in effective reforming, much more the state must shake-up of the agencies that investigate and prosecute economic, service and white-collar crimes to establish the appropriate cultural and ethical standards at the authorities. All of these circumstances are grounds for taking the current international experience and modern anti-corruption tools in order to provide proper mechanisms and to get perceptible results both on the local level and on the whole.

 

Evgeny A. Nagornyy
October 5, 2010

 

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Corruption in Russia: Part of Local Administrative Culture