Database to Fight Corruption

ST. PETERSBURG -- The government will up the fight against corruption with a special electronic property database allowing officials to see more easily what people own, Justice Minister Alexander Konovalov said Saturday.

"There already is a database on what property people own, but we are talking about streamlining it to make it easier to use and see what people own by synchronizing what different agencies and ministries already have," Konovalov said in an interview at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum.

Asked about levels of corruption, he said, "It is an approximate science to say when there is more or less but when business activity rises there are more economic relations and so perhaps this has risen."

Analysts said the electronic property base was important as it would allow officials to see exactly what people -- including corrupt bureaucrats -- own and pinpoint discrepancies between declared income and property.

Tax authorities in Europe use such databases to pinpoint tax evasion and corruption.

President Dmitry Medvedev has targeted corruption as one of his key policies since taking office last month. The Kremlin has repeatedly started anti-corruption drives in the past with little impact, and foreign investors say privately that bribe-taking has soared in recent years as Russia's economy has boomed.

Konovalov said corruption existed in all societies but that Russian authorities would work to root out corruption.

"This is an ongoing process and we are going to work on it," he said.