5. Measures taken against corruption

1. Introduction
2. Corruption in transitional Russia
3. Corruption as a phenomenon of the transition
4. The state
5. Measures taken against corruption
6. A basis for change
7. Conclusions

In Russian legislation, the following articles of the criminal code relate to corruption: No. 174 - legalization of financial means and other property acquired illegally; No. 285 - misuse of official authority; No. 290 - acceptance of a bribe; No. 291 - offer of a bribe; and No. 292 - forgery of documents. At the same time a number of actions closely related to corruption are not included in the new criminal code. These are: participation of an official figure in a commercial activity for deriving personal benefits; use of an official position for ‘‘pumping’’ state resources into commercial structures for deriving personal benefits with the involvement to this end of other persons or relatives; granting privileges to commercial structures by an official figure to derive personal benefit; granting state financial and other resources to electoral funds.

The law ‘‘on fighting against corruption’’ adopted by the State Duma in November 1997 accordingly proved to be very feeble. In 1992, the president of the Russian Federation issued a decree ‘‘on fighting against corruption in the state service system.’’ Because of the absence of mechanisms for its implementation, this proved to be one of the most neglected decrees in the whole history of the Russian presidency. It obligated public servants to declare their income and property, but only beginning five years hence. A proposed regulation forbidding public officials to engage in private entrepreneurial activity was never adopted. According to the Ministry of Internal Affairs, more than 800 cases of such violations were revealed in the period from 1994 through mid-1997. The possibility of combining state service with commercial activity was however, allowed to continue as a major pathway for corruption. The Federal Russian law, ‘‘on the basis of state service in the Russian Federation’’ provided for anti-corruption measures, but was also badly implemented. One of the reasons was the absence in the law of mechanisms and procedures to permit implementation.

Measures that sought to restrain corruption in law enforcement agencies were adopted. The Federal Security Service, the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the State Customs Committee, and the Federal Service of Tax Police were given departments of internal security of their own. According to the General Prosecutor’s Office of the Russian Federation, the service of internal security of the Ministry of Internal Affairs is the most effective, revealing 60% of the crimes committed by official figures of the ministry.

Data shows that arrests for convictions have declined by 80% from the time of the Soviet Union, although the population of the Russian Federation is smaller than that of the USSR by 40%. The probability that a defendant will end up behind bars after a case is begun by the prosecutor’s office does not exceed 0.08. For example, according to the State Tax Service, in 1995, criminal cases for bribery were launched against 97 officers of the service; yet only six of them were convicted. Criminal cases under the article ‘‘Misuse of Authority’’ were launched against 17 officers, and no one was convicted. The situation was not much better in 1996-1997.

Experts knowledgeable about how to contain and reduce corruption are basically non-existent within law enforcement agencies. A naive vision of the causes of corruption has not changed. The vision in the Soviet era was described at the beginning of this paper. We offer a quotation from a preamble to a draft program of fighting with corruption dating from 1996: ‘‘The current situation corruption occurred because in the state authority, attention to the selection and placement of personnel was loosened.

There are three reasons why law enforcement agencies fail in their fight with corruption. First, criminal prosecution alone cannot change large-scale corruption.

The fight against corruption is not a criminal problem only, but - as we have described - is a systemic one. Second, the quality of the work of the law enforcement agencies is low; they themselves are corroded by corruption, and the professional level of the officers en masse is not a match for the complexity of the problem. Third, the law enforcement system alone cannot cope with the problem, this requires resolution by the combined efforts of the state and society.

There is no shortage of pronouncements. In 1997, the president of the Russian Federation announced a transition to open tenders for state procurement orders, and he also announced that budgetary discipline was to be strengthened. New laws were adopted intended to narrow the base for corruption the law ‘‘on the x executive issues’’, the law ‘‘on court officials’’ ‘‘pristavakh’’, the law on privatization, and the law on bankruptcy . The 1998 budget stipulated an increase of 48% in the financial resources allocated to the judicial system. One could, however, observe delays with the implementation.

To assess the prospects of fighting corruption in Russia, it is necessary to establish feasible participation by the main actors: the authorities, key elements of civil society entrepreneurs, mass media, and public institutions, and society as a whole. In the complicated situation of Russia, all the ‘‘players’’ have both positive and negative attitudes in fighting corruption.

The mass media does write about corruption, and these articles enjoy a high demand by readers. No group has an exclusive monopoly in the commercial mass media, so issues of corruption are on the agenda.

The business elite is aware of the influence of the mass media. We witness, as a result, conflicts between different groups, for the control over information channels in a broad sense of the word. With no norms regulating judicial and economic relations between journalists and their ‘‘masters’’, the private mass media degenerate to a tool for fighting between economic and bureaucratic clans.

Russian business consists of three unequal parts. Its first and minor sector includes those major financial groups that grew up on state budgetary funds and on the access to administrative resources. These groups fiercely fight with each other and new groups emerge. Part of their antagonism to each other is expressed in claims and counterclaims of corruption. The emergence of scandals reveals the real situation to the people and inhibits some impudent corruption-related actions.

The second sector of Russian business embraces representatives of the ‘‘second echelon’’ of business. They were not allowed and often did not strive, because of fear or principle to secure access to the budget feeding trough, and for that reason are interested in fair rules of the economic game. Entrepreneurs who succeeded under conditions of real competition are not interested in the intermingling of political power and business that nurtures corruption. This part of Russian business is fragmented and did not develop permanent effective mechanisms for the protection of their interests. The authorities, following the already formed tradition, maintain contact with the representatives of the first group of businessmen, while basically ignoring the much more numerous second group.

The third group of the Russian businessmen, often referred to as ‘‘small and medium business’’, which is a base for the middle class, is literally ensnared by grassroots corruption. For them, corruption hinders business activity and debases the entire social stratum. This becomes a source of social tension for these groups, which, as history shows, were the catalyst not only of bourgeois revolutions but also of fascism.

The mainstream of Russian society is disillusioned by the incompetence and lack of will of the authorities. This disillusionment is maintained by a stable stereotype of deep state corruption. Russian public opinion, which is still not protected by the entrenchment of civil responsibility and adherence to democratic principles, is prone to the temptations of simple solutions. One of the most widespread myths is in the desirability of a ‘‘strong hand’’. For that reason it will be very hard to gain the trust and support of the people for the implementation of an anti-corruption program.

The Russian authorities themselves are, at the same time, concerned with losing the trust of society. They need the approval of voters when elections take place.

Declaring opposition to corruption is one way of gaining popular support. Representatives of all parts of the political spectrum gladly use anti-corruption rhetoric.

Measures aimed at constraining corruption prove to be either symbolic or fragmentary. Several obstacles hinder the launching and implementation of anti-corruption measures. High-ranking figures may themselves be accused of involvement in corruption. There is a large group of officials not interested in changing the status quo. Old stereotypes dominate within the state bureaucracy and they dictate straightforward non-effective approaches to the solution of corruption-related problems.

Eliminating corruption is inseparable from the radical redesign of the mechanisms of state management. The implementation of an anti-corruption program requires political support from political elites who benefit from the continuing system. The state, which should lead the fight against corruption, is the instigator of conditions that facilitate corruption. This makes the design of public policy to combat corruption difficult. At the same time, the public has no reason to change their perceptions and behavior, which accommodates corruption as part of normal life. No systemic change can therefore take place to affect the basic concepts, values and behavioral stereotypes of public officials and the people they serve.

back | home | next