The winner is . . . the Ministry of Defense. Novaya gazeta assembled respected independent experts to judge which of the Russian government’s 35 ministries and departments is most corrupt.
The Defense Ministry edged out the Transportation and Economic Development Ministries. The experts said the five most corrupt (Health and Social Development is fourth and Finance fifth) have the opportunity to “saw off” 100 million to 1 trillion rubles per year (including budget money, and money that doesn’t reach the budget).
A little context. Recall Defense Minister Anatoliy Serdyukov arrived four plus years ago promising to bring the Armed Forces’ notorious “financial flows” under strict control. But corruption scandals have only continued to flare around the Arbat Military District. Just a casual recent look: the Main Military Prosecutor says 20 percent of GOZ money is being stolen, Lipetsk highlights widespread premium pay extortion, the Chief of the Main Military-Medical Directorate is arrested for corruption. The list could go on.
Look at the Novaya story in the vernacular for links to its original sources. Its experts focused on the closed nature of the defense budget, the impossibility of accounting for money allegedly spent on military R&D, the inability to confirm that work was actually performed, inflated prices, and a high rate of kickbacks.
But they also focused on the simple fact that no one is officially in charge of significant amounts of defense money in the federal budget. Just by looking at budget lines, it’s clear to them that 600 billion rubles in defense spending (and perhaps much more) are simply unaccounted for.
They also focused on Defense Ministry FGUPs that haul in enormous profits but remit little into the budget. And lastly they noted that fake health deferments from Voyenkomaty amount to an illicit 150-billion-ruble business every year.
This is how they summarize the corruption situation in the Defense Ministry (below распил or saw cut, a share or cut of illegally obtained money, is translated as sawed off):
“1. Anatoliy Serdyukov’s Defense Ministry is the richest and also the most closed of Russian ministries and departments. This is precisely why the experts considered it the ‘goldmine of the corrupt,’ that is absolute leader in the volume of money which it’s possible to write off without supervision as ‘expenses,’ the reality of which society doesn’t have the slightest chance of verifying. The first corruption scandal in the new (Yeltsin-Putin) Russia is directly connected with the Defense Ministry – the plunder of Western Group of Forces property which broke out in 1992-93.”
“In the opinion of experts polled, ‘today’s army purchases and especially ‘development,’ ‘research and development work’ for the army is that sphere where it’s possible to put up to 90% or more of state financing in your own pocket peacefully and where there’s no kind of limit at all. Not even comparable is civilian construction done at state budget expense, where it would seem there should be the greatest percentage of corruption, but there is a limit there: in construction it’s necessary to present a final result – a finished facility, therefore here it’s possible to put a maximum of 70% of state resources in your pocket without punishment. In army ‘development’ there’s no accounting, everything’s classified, and this means it’s impossible to check, therefore in the Defense Ministry they ‘lose’ fantastic sums. This comes to light only rarely, when military journalists make note of ‘new developments’ at Defense Ministry exhibitions which they already saw several years before. Meanwhile, the Defense Ministry objects to this: no, this isn’t old, it’s new, but meticulous military journalists show photos from previous years in which even the serial numbers are the very same as in the new exhibition.”
“Such expert evaluations are largely supported by the not numerous checks of the Main Military Prosecutor when they conduct them. So, not long ago, the results of checks into the Defense Ministry’s 13th GNII and the Main Military-Medical Directorate, where ‘large-scale thefts of financial resources’ were revealed, were substantiated. ‘Just in several instances of criminal activity by officials of the 13th GNII and ZAO ‘Kulon’ the theft of more than 40 million rubles was revealed – this is the amount of work which was never fulfilled. A criminal case in relation to a group of Defense Ministry Main Military-Medical Directorate and State Order Directorate personnel was launched: they concluded a state contract with a commercial firm to supply medical equipment for more than 26 million rubles, the cost of the equipment purchased from the businessmen was inflated more than 3 times, and the state took a loss of more than 17 million,’ acknowledged the Chief of the Second Directorate of the Main Military Procuracy General-Major of Justice Aleksandr Nikitin.”
“In Kirill Kabanov’s estimation, ‘the figure of 1 trillion rubles which the budget loses in purchases could be understated. Kickbacks in our state procurement system are 30-40%, in open areas kickbacks are 20%, but in closed, monopolistic ones they go up to 60% — in the Defense Ministry, for example.’“
“‘The Defense Ministry, of course, is the kingdom of the fearlessly corrupt. The ability to classify everything in the world powerfully helps in ‘sawing off’ activity,’ – states Aleksey Navalnyy.”
“The potential corruption of ‘defense expenditures’ lies not just on the fact that society can’t concretely check the designation of every billion of military spending, but it doesn’t even have chances to find out precisely which ministry or department exactly bears responsibility for a good half of ‘defense’ expenditures. For example, in 2010, the expenditures of the RF federal budget were 10.116 trillion rubles – both the Finance Ministry official site and the Rostat official site attest to this. But of these only 9.052 was officially distributed among ministries and departments, and more than 1.06 trillion rubles was used by someone unknown, meanwhile more than half of them (0.6 trillion) went to ‘defense expenditures!’ An even more outrageous situation was planned in the RF budget laws for the following years: in 2011, expenditures are 10.65 trillion, only 9.35 of which are signed off to a departmental structure, in 2012 — 11.3 trillion and 9.4 trillion, in 2013 — 12.2 trillion and 9.5 trillion accordingly, that is with every year the share of ‘no one’s’ expenditures will grow even larger . . .”
“In 2010, budget expenditures ‘on defense’ were 1.28 trillion (!) rubles. Meanwhile, the Defense Ministry spent 0.98 trillion, of which 0.64 trillion were ‘on defense,’ but the remaining 0.34 trillion — on communal services, education, health, film, TV and pensions. Spending of the remaining departments ‘on defense’ was in the amount of 0.041 trillion (Minpromtorg –32.4 billion, Rosatom –3.7 billion, Roskosmos — 0.9 billion, Rosaviatsiya — 0.6 billion, etc.; the Defense Ministry’s departments: Spetsstroy — 1.8 billion, Rosoboronpostavka — 0.5 billion, Rosoboronzakaz — 0.3 billion, FSVTS — 0.3 billion, FSTEK — 0.0 [sic] billion rubles), the total expenditures of all departments ‘on defense’ — 0.68 trillion rubles. But it’s unknown who — unknown even which ministry or department spent all of 0.6 trillion rubles ‘on defense!!’ It’s understandable that they were spent on the Defense Ministry’s business, but why hide this (no ‘military secret’ really suffers, if the Defense Ministry acknowledges that it spent not 1 trillion, but an entire 1.6 trillion in a year), isn’t it because it’s so much easier to steal ‘no one’s’ 600 billion in defense money?”
“It’s not known which departments spend not just 0.6 trillion in expenditures ‘on defense,’ but also 0.46 trillion of other spending — a number of experts believe they are almost all under the Defense Ministry’s control, the real budget of which is twice as much as the official one and amounts to 2 trillion a year. So half of this (or even more), in experts’ opinions, gets ‘sawed off.'”
“However, the ‘fat’ life of the Defense Ministry leadership doesn’t end with this. It turns out to be unknown how and why 15 thousand pieces of property belong to the Defense Ministry. Where and to whom the proceeds from the use of them go – God only knows. But on the other hand it is known that they are still also gathering up money for housing construction on these Defense Ministry lands from simple people who then turn into deceived investors.”
“Moreover, the Defense Ministry directs 352 FGUPs (Federal State Unitary Enterprises), from which even in the crisis year 2008, the Defense Ministry received 39.3 billion rubles in proceeds, but there are problems with remitting the profits into the federal budget: it remitted only 0.092 billion of them. Another 126 FGUPs are directed by Defense Ministry subordinate Spetsstroy and there’s the same situation with it: proceeds in 2008 were 62.4 billion, and only 0.017 billion in profits remitted to the federal budget. Defense Ministry subordinates FSTEK and Rosoboronzakaz direct 4 and 3 FGUPs respectively, their proceeds are 0.8 and 0.2 billion respectively, profits remitted to the budget are 0.001 and 0.0002 billion respectively.”
“The Defense Ministry and its subordinate Rosoboronpostavka glorified themselves with outrageous expenditures of dozens of budget millions to buy furniture for their leadership – certainly made of gold, beautiful wood and natural buffalo hide. The main defender of the Motherland wouldn’t sit or work on any other furniture . . . Just three such orders for the leadership cost the budget 60 million rubles, and at the same time 7 million was spent for furniture for average Defense Ministry and Rosoboronpostavka personnel. The Defense Ministry made it known that it also wrote off 45 million on ‘media monitoring’ in 2010(!).”
“The Defense Ministry’s subordinate Spetsstroy has been highlighted in corruption scandals: in 2010, just one of its FGUPs tried to ‘con’ four banks out of more than 500 million rubles, by not returning credits taken from them and attempting to organize the ‘bankruptcy’ of Spetsstroy FGUPs . . .”
“Besides, in the experts’ opinion, ‘the main preoccupation of voyenkomaty in the last two decades has become the collection of bribes from conscripts,’ since ‘from 80% to 90% of deferments for health are given by voyenkomaty for bribes – exactly for this reason the Defense Ministry is demanding the lifting of student deferments, lifting deferments for the fathers of newborns, but never demands lifting deferments for health.’ Every year nearly 600 thousand deferments ‘for health’ are issued, almost all are for bribes which run in various RF regions from 200 to 400 thousand rubles, so, the overall trade in voyenkomat bribes is nearly 150 billion rubles a year, the experts believe.”