Daily Archives: May 5, 2010

Phantom Apartments

Yesterday NTV aired an expose which helps explain how the Defense Ministry claims it  built 45,600 apartments for officers in a single year.

It’s a bit surprising that a national channel aired this piece.  It depicts quite a mess in military housing, although it doesn’t venture to say how widespread this problem might be.  Recall that the military prosecutor was investigating a case of 8 unfinished buildings in Chekhov back in January. 

It’s unclear how such messes could be cleaned up–how unfinished apartments could be completed, who would do it, and, most importantly, who would pay.  Previous reports made clear the turmoil in the Defense Ministry’s Housing and Construction Service when civilian Grigoriy Naginskiy replaced General-Colonel Filippov at the beginning of 2010.

NTV also hints at pervasive corruption in the military housing program, but doesn’t address this directly. 

Brewing military housing scandals could lead not just to questions about poor management in Serdyukov’s Defense Ministry, but also about Prime Minister Putin’s (and President Medvedev’s) ability to delivery on oft-repeated promises to servicemen.

The video shows poor quality work on an apartment building in a way text alone could never describe it.  The looks and expressions of the jilted officers would similarly be difficult to capture in words.

NTV says officers of the Ufa garrison are thinking not about the upcoming 9 May Victory Day holiday, but about resolution of their everyday problems.  Because of bureaucrats, they and their families could end up out in the street.  They were allocated apartments in a new building where they can’t live.  The multi-story building is incomplete, and several parts of it haven’t even been started.

But according to the documents everything is in order.  There are even acts of acceptance for the nonexistent apartments.  The chief of every organization involved in the project hurried to put check marks on reports about the completion of this state construction order.  For this reason, it will be hard to determine exactly who’s to blame.

The camera turns to one Lieutenant Colonel Valeyev, effectively out of the service for 7 years, but unable to retire (he hasn’t received permanent housing).  He had to surrender his service apartment, and lives in the kitchen of an officer’s dormitory while his daughter lives in his room.  Valeyev concludes simply, “It’s shameful to live in such a situation.”

The construction contract for 350 apartments on the outskirts of Ufa was signed a year ago, and the work was to be finished in just three months, understood to be unrealistic and impossible from the very beginning.  The builders didn’t finish for understandable reasons, but the acts of delivery-acceptance were signed on time.  It turns out this housing existed on paper, but not in reality.

They managed to build only one-third of the apartments promised, and even those remain incomplete after six months.  Nevertheless, the chief of the Ufa KECh (housing management unit or КЭЧ), who distributes housing to servicemen, signed for ceramic tile, linoleum, and wallpaper back in October (so where did these materials end up?).

Asked why the acceptance was signed if the apartments weren’t ready, the KECh chief says only, “It was signed, so to speak, in advance.”

Meanwhile, the other two apartment buildings are just holes in the ground, as shown in the video.  These unbuilt apartments have been distributed already, so 100 military families have housing on paper.

Ufa garrison officers can’t go back to their old service apartments that have been given to others already.  It’s also possible their assigned permanent apartments, when and if completed, could be sold to civilian buyers now that the original contract’s been voided.  The officers will claim they have documents for the apartments, but the builder will tell them to take it up with those that gave them the papers (i.e. the KECh and the Defense Ministry).

The contractor complains that the Defense Ministry contract was lower than market price by one-fourth (well, why did they agree?).  And he claims he went ahead with his own money and now the apartments are more expensive (he seems to be preparing to justify selling them on the private market).

The officers don’t even have anyone with whom they can argue.  The previous KECh chief is under investigation on bribery charges.  And dismissed officers from distant Ural garrisons are being sent back to their units to ask their old commanders for some living space.