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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Duma Seeks Probe Into Army Spending

The State Duma has asked the Audit Chamber to look into how the military spent much of its money last year.

The Duma is questioning whether the 57 billion rubles ($1.9 billion) allocated for arms procurement, research and development in 2001 was spent as intended, and it wants to know what happened to the hundreds of millions of dollars earned from commercial space launches.

Basing his statement on data provided by the League of Assistance to Defense Enterprises, Deputy Speaker Georgy Boos of the Unity and Fatherland Party told the Duma on Friday that only 67 percent of the procurement program was financed. Research on missile programs got only 2 percent of what it was allocated, while enterprises that delivered Topol-M intercontinental missiles got only 18 percent of what they were owed, he said.

An overwhelming majority of 405 deputies in the 450-member chamber responded by voting Friday to ask the Audit Chamber to check the government's figures not only for 2001 but going back to 1997. The Duma's appeal does not specify whether it suspects the money was mismanaged, caught up in payment delays or simply stolen.

But as a result of defense enterprises not being funded in full and on time, "many important defense projects are not financed and research and development programs are not carried out, which weakens the defense capability of the Russian Federation," the parliamentary request said. The Duma said it also was concerned about rampant wage arrears in the industry, which in turn create social tension and lead to an exodus of specialists from the sector.

The Duma's request follows repeated assurances from government ministers that the procurement program had been fully financed.

Anatoly Dolgolaptev, president of the league representing defense enterprises, said Monday that at least 6 billion rubles of the 2001 procurement money went to pay off debts from past years.

Andrei Astakhov, the Audit Chamber official in charge of overseeeing state arms procurement, said it was possible some of the money had gone to pay debts. Another possibility is that some of the money transferred in December may not have reached the enterprises yet, he said Monday.

Also on Friday, the Duma, with 361 votes, asked its budgetary watchdog to look into how the Strategic Missile Forces used the revenues from commercial launches at Baikonur, Plesetsk and Svobodny from Sept. 1, 1997, until June 1, 2001 -- the period when the Space Forces were under its command.

"It was four years of stagnation," said Deputy Alexander Venediktov, who asked for the vote. "New space systems were not created, while revenues from the commercial launches were flowing."

For instance, Svobodny carried out three commercial launches at a cost of $50,000 each, while charging no less than $500,000 per launch, Venediktov said by telephone Monday. "Where did the rest of that money go?" he wondered.

Kommersant reported Saturday that the missile forces had received some $200 million in revenue from the launches, of which some was spent on repairs to its headquarters and some on the forces' 40th anniversary celebrations in 1999. No representative of the missile forces could be reached Monday for comment.

The Audit Chamber on Monday began a six-week investigation into the finances of the State Duma.

The audit, which was initiated by a group of deputies from the so-called centrist bloc headed by the Unity and Fatherland Party, will cover Duma spending in 1999-2001.

Deputy Speaker Lyubov Sliska complained that the financial operations of the Duma's sprawling administrative apparatus were "far from transparent," Interfax reported.

A preliminary Duma report cited by Interfax said that federal funding for the apparatus nearly doubled over the past year, rising from 528.6 million rubles in 2001 to 1.4 billion rubles for this year.

Duma Speaker Gennady Seleznyov welcomed the audit and said such inspections were done annually. However, Sliska said a "comprehensive" audit has not been done in the past three years.

When the attempt to revamp the apparatus began about three weeks ago, Kommersant said the centrist bloc wanted to arrange a personnel reshuffle to free the apparatus from Communist control and, thereby, ensure the smooth passage of important bills this spring.

Staff Writer Natalia Yefimova contributed to this report.