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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Auditors May Pursue Ministers

Government officials up to the rank of minister who refuse Audit Chamber requests for information -- particularly about the misuse of federal budget money -- could be called to account under legislative changes proposed by the Prosecutor General's Office on Tuesday.

"The Audit Chamber filed a petition to the Prosecutor General's Office to call into account the officials of some ministries and federal bodies for refusal to present information, but the circle of such officials must be widened," Deputy Prosecutor General Vasily Kolmogorov was quoted by Interfax as saying at the fourth conference of the Association of Russian Audit and Control Bodies.

Currently, department heads are the highest level of government who can be held responsible.

Kolmogorov said the prosecutor's office has received 86 reports from audits conducted by the chamber in the last two years. "Most of these cases concern misappropriation of money from the federal budget," he said.

Audit Chamber spokesman Leonid Zhigalov said no names of any ministers were mentioned in the budgetary watchdog's inspections this year.

Federal Security Service head Nikolai Patrushev told the conference that the misappropriation of 700 million rubles ($22 million) of federal budget funds earmarked for the rebuilding of Chechnya was uncovered during a joint inspection by the FSB and the Audit Chamber.

Another joint inquiry by the FSB and the Audit Chamber targeted the use of allocations to the military and the activities of the commercial Military Bank, Patrushev said.

"The audits revealed damage to the state of $55 million. Control of money will be tightened at defense factories working with state orders to avert embezzlement in this area," Patrushev as quoted by Itar-Tass as saying.

Patrushev also said an inspection of the State Customs Committee found that foreign trade operators had hidden 54 billion rubles ($1.7 billion) in customs tax payments.

Audit Chamber chief Sergei Stepashin announced that the housing and utilities complex and national power grid Unified Energy Systems were next in line to be checked in 2003.

Stepashin also said that the Audit Chamber will soon report its conclusions after an investigation in the Magadan region where "many very serious problems" were discovered.

He said he hoped that it would shed some light on the murder of Magadan Governor Valentin Tsvetkov, who was shot dead on Novy Arbat in October.