Saturday, April 19, 2014

President of Russia

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Meeting of the Council for Countering Corruption

Issues discussed included state policy measures for the prevention and countering of corruption.

In particular, Dmitry Medvedev announced that he had approved the National Anti-Corruption Plan for 2012–2013.

The meeting was attended by Prosecutor General Yury Chaika, Chief of Staff of the Presidential Executive Office Sergei Ivanov, First Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Zubkov, Justice Minister Alexander Konovalov, Economic Development Minister Elvira Nabiullina, Interior Minister Rashid Nurgaliyev, Director of the Federal Security Service Alexander Bortnikov, Chairman of the Investigative Committee Alexander Bastrykin, President of the Higher Arbitration Court Anton Ivanov, President of the Supreme Court Vyacheslav Lebedev and Chairman of the Accounts Chamber Sergei Stepashin.

* * *

PRESIDENT OF RUSSIA DMITRY MEDVEDEV: Good afternoon, colleagues,

Today we are going to consider a number of decisions to be adopted in the near future. We will talk about the legislative aspect, as well as the creation of conditions for a comprehensive and modern corruption prevention policy. Let us return to this later.

I would like to begin with an announcement. Today I signed the National Anti-Corruption Plan for 2012-2013. The Chairman of the Council’s Presidium, Mr Ivanov [Chief of Staff of the Presidential Executive Office] will report on the Plan’s main provisions.

The previous Plan was implemented in 2010-2011, and it made it possible for us to create a legislative and institutional framework to fight corruption on a fundamentally different level. Now we need to go a step further. I will tell you about the next measure I intend to propose to prevent corruption: control over state officials’ expenditures.

I spoke about this in the Address [to the Federal Assembly]. The purpose of this control measure is evident: if it is revealed that an official’s spending, at least in the areas which the state is able to check, clearly exceeds his or her income, and the person cannot explain how these funds had been obtained, then this may serve as grounds for the official's dismissal and the confiscation of the property purchased with the unaccounted income.

Today we can state that our anti-corruption standards are in full compliance with international conventions on establishing liability for illicit enrichment, including the well-known Article 20 of the UN International Convention against Corruption.

The presumption of innocence, which is the foundation of our legal system, stipulates that criminal punishment cannot be imposed on officials unless it is proved that they had obtained the money through criminal activity. Accordingly, Article 20 (referring to illicit enrichment) can be applied by our legal system only when an offence has been identified as and proven to be a criminal act.

In all other cases, we can talk about unknown sources of income or shady types of property. However, the punishment for the individuals whose expenditures clearly exceed their incomes can be imposed through other procedures.

Over the past two years, I have often been asked this question: why is it that in conjunction with making it obligatory for officials to disclose information on their incomes it was not required that they submit spending declarations? Obviously, there are several reasons for that. The control over incomes is still the most important component, and I believe all legal systems provide for it.

In addition, monitoring the sources of income is possible only if there is a relevant property database. Adopting a law on monitoring expense declarations would have been pointless until such a framework was created and the infrastructure for identifying the relevant imbalances between officials’ incomes and spending was in place. Clearly, a law that is impossible to enforce does not promote correct, law-abiding behaviour, and in fact has the opposite effect, leading to even greater legal nihilism.

"Society must obtain a set of mechanisms that increase the effectiveness of anti-corruption efforts. First of all, this will be due to the greater accessibility and transparency of information about the government’s activities, as well as the opportunities for citizens to express their opinions, to influence the government’s activities through various debates, online discussions and so on, as well as by creating influential expert communities and participating in their work."

At present we have a certain amount of experience. Officials’ income declarations are published in the official media and online. A corresponding database has been created and relevant monitoring agencies have been established. Consequently, we now have all the preconditions for making the transition to the next stage.

The essence of draft law we are going to discuss today is as follows. In accordance with its provisions, an individual who holds public office, state officials, municipal officials and employees of state organisations are to submit information on the funds spent by them and members of their families (spouses and underage children) to acquire certain types of property: real estate, securities, stock and vehicles. I am sure you understand the idea. We are talking about transactions that are in one form or another registered by state agencies.

The law could also require information about the sources of the money spent to confirm the legality of obtaining it. The draft law requires such information to be provided if the amount of a single transaction made by an official or a member of his/her family exceeds the total income of all family members earned by them at their primary place of employment over the period of three years.

Information about spending exceeding the official’s income can be provided not only by law enforcement agencies, political parties or the Civic Chamber, but also by the media, public organisations or any interested parties.

It is also planned to introduce amendments to a number of legislative acts, in particular, to add a provision to the Civil Code stating that property acquired with an unexplained income will be converted into state property, following the model that currently exists in the civil law.

I note that the National Anti-Corruption Plan and the draft law I have just spoken about meet the fundamental principles of modern society: openness and accountability of state governance, that is, the principles along which I hope our society will develop in the coming years, and the principles of the so-called Open Government, which is now being actively developed and discussed.

Under this system, society must obtain a set of mechanisms that increase the effectiveness of anti-corruption efforts. First of all, this will be due to the greater accessibility and transparency of information about the government’s activities, as well as the opportunities for citizens to express their opinions, to influence the government’s activities through various debates, online discussions and so on, as well as by creating influential expert communities and participating in their work.

I think there should be a broad debate in society, among public organisations and a wide range of experts on the National Anti-Corruption Plan and the draft law. The draft law will be published online on the Open Government website, which was specially created to promote public discussions of key, socially relevant legislation and to ensure the government’s transparency with regard to legislative activity.

The work should be completed in a fairly short period of time because I promised to submit this draft law to the State Duma. Therefore, I set the deadline for March 22. We will summarise the results at a meeting of the Open Government working group in the near future and will take them into account in our work on the draft law with the State Duma.

I am confident that through appropriate mechanisms, the mechanisms of the Open Government that I have just mentioned, we will produce a far superior document, one that has been debated by the public and is therefore, a result of our citizens’ direct involvement in the legislative process. I hope this will be beneficial.

Colleagues, one more piece of information: in 2015 we will host the sixth session of the Conference of States Parties to the UN Convention against Corruption, so you need to create an organising committee to prepare the event. Today I issued relevant instructions to the Government and tasked it with concluding an agreement between the Russian Government and the United Nations on the terms and conditions of holding the Conference.

I think it will be a useful event and it will testify to the international organisations’ assessment of our efforts in fighting corruption.

Another point, perhaps the most important one. What we need right now is not an imitation of work, not just reports on what is being done, but real day-to-day efforts to which everyone must contribute in their places. I am talking about the law enforcement agencies that conduct preliminary investigations and fieldwork, and the work of relevant government agencies that need to monitor the behaviour of state officials, not to mention the activity of public institutions and civil society as a whole.

Let's get to work.

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