$42,000 Reward for Corrupt Bureaucrats

With President Dmitry Medvedev stressing the importance of combating corruption, one regional politician is offering citizens an extra incentive to rat out crooked officials: money.

Yevgeny Rogoza, head of the Chelyabinsk city branch of pro-Kremlin party A Just Russia, is promising citizens a 1 million ruble ($42,000) reward next month for handing over evidence of corruption in the Chelyabinsk City Hall.

"We want to make our bureaucrats nervous," Rogoza said in a telephone interview Wednesday. "If they are aware that every person they deal with can earn some money by turning them in for corruption, the climate of impunity they enjoy now will disappear."

The reward money is being fronted by "businesspeople who are fed up with relentless extortion in the city," Rogoza said. Evidence can include documents or audio recordings proving that city bureaucrats accept bribes, he said.

Rogoza, who has declared August "Corruption Fighting Month" in Chelyabinsk, said the ultimate goal is to collect examples of malfeasance and report them to law enforcement authorities. "We will see how it works," Rogoza said. "Maybe our experience will be worth implementing on a federal level."

Chelyabinsk Deputy Mayor Oleg Grachyov said by telephone that the city administration would not oppose Rogoza's campaign, though he said it could prompt a slew of provocations against officials by citizens looking to make some easy money. "I will strongly advise my colleagues to get tape recorders, too," Grachyov said. "There are always two sides in bribery, and no one has repealed responsibility for offering a bribe as well as for taking it."

Grachyov said the anti-corruption crusade was a campaign tactic by Rogoza ahead of local elections next year. While it is a largely tame opposition on the federal level, A Just Russia -- created in 2006 by Federation Council Speaker Sergei Mironov as a center-left alternative to United Russia -- has engaged the party of power in some scandalous, hard-fought regional elections.

While A Just Russia is promoting a broad anti-corruption program, Rogoza's is simply a local campaign, said Gennady Gudkov, a senior party official and State Duma deputy. "If they are able to pay this money in Chelaybinsk and dozens crimes will be prevented by doing so, then that's fine," he said. "But it won't undermine serious corruption."

n Authorities registered 27,000 crimes related to corruption in the first six months of this year, up 10 percent from the same period last year, according to figures released by the Prosecutor General's Office on Wednesday.