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City news, 09.02.2007 12:05

Deputies Set Their Sights on Corruption

corruption By Evgenia Ivanova

Staff Writer

A bill introducing “additional measures to tackle corruption in St. Petersburg” passed its first reading Wednesday in the Legislative Assembly.

According to its author, Legislative Assembly deputy Vladimir Yeremenko, the document is intended to help battle “corrupt civil servants, bribe-takers who have merged almost entirely with state, commercial organizations and criminal groups… that very same force that might destroy the state from within.” The bill calls for the putting in place of procedures concerning control of the hiring and employment of civil servants, anti-corruption checks of legal norms, and the creation of a special council to discuss corruption issues, Yeremenko, a member of the Kremlin-controlled United Russia party, told The St. Petersburg Times on Thursday.

“Unfortunately, corruption has in recent times penetrated every sphere of our life and has even spread to the simplest, most everyday relationships, not to mention the corruption on the state scale,” Vadim Tyulpanov, chairman of the assembly and leader of United Russia in St. Petersburg said in an emailed statement on Wednesday.

He said the initiative was timely and that, although subsequent readings of the bill will come only after a new assembly sits following March elections, he believed deputies will be able to successfully “see [the bill] through.”

The proposed law’s critics said, however, that the bill does not have the potential to become an instrument in the fight against corruption.

“Real life and this document exist independently of each other, and do not have anything in common,” quoted Legislative Assembly deputy Mikhail Amosov as saying on Thursday.

Amosov, a member of the Yabloko party, who promised to give the bill his support as a gesture of respect to Yeremenko, said the situation reminded him of the beginning of the assembly’s work during perestroika 20 years ago.

During the Soviet era the rubber-stamp parliament attempted to address complex matters by simply issuing a law, Amosov said.

“Such bills are usually just imitations, rather than real problem-solving tools,” acting chairman of the National Anti-Corruption Committee Kirill Kabanov said Thursday in a telephone interview. “To state a general declaration norms is harmless, but also useless.”

“[The reasons behind the creation of the bill] partly derive from a willingness to change things for the better, but are also designed to prove to everyone that not only the federal authorities are trying to do something on the matter, but also that [the Legislative Assembly] is involved,” Kabanov told the St. Petersburg Times.

Kabanov said he didn’t believe that the bill was going to solve the problems it is designed to counteract due to “the absence of an in-depth approach to the problem” in the country in general.

Corruption is a systemic phenomenon, he said. In order to tackle what he called “the biggest problem in Russia,” a system must be created that enables drastic changes in the legislative and executive powers to be made and allows society to take control of the situation.

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