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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Krasnoyarsk Is Ready to Clean House

KRASNOYARSK, Western Siberia -- The walls in the offices of the Krasnoyarsk regional administration have seen a lot.

In 1997, for example, an elevator was installed overnight to ensure that then-President Boris Yeltsin could make his way up to the second floor. French movie star Alain Delon once walked the corridors as a friend of late Governor Alexander Lebed.

The Krasnoyarsk region also is known as a barometer for national elections, with local results always matching the countrywide outcome.

Now Krasnoyarsk and its administration are going to be subjected to a key pilot project that, if successful, will be implemented throughout the country -- administrative reform. Four other regions are part of the experiment as well.

The first step will be for independent experts and the general population to assess two Krasnoyarsk agencies -- utilities and housing services and the culture department -- to find excessive powers, and a scale will be set up to measure bureaucrats' performance. The population will be polled for their impressions.

The results, expected by the end of this year, will form the foundation of a new program regulating the life of local bureaucracy, said Andrei Sharov, Moscow's point man on administrative reform at the Economic Development and Trade Ministry.

Based on the program, a new formula for funding the activities of bureaucrats will be put in place sometime next year.

Sharov said Friday that he believes success is inevitable.

"There is a new vector in both public opinion and federal policy that means that reform will be conducted. It's no longer a matter of someone being willing or unwilling to go through with the reform," he said as he wrapped up a daylong visit to Krasnoyarsk to fine-tune the pilot project.

Local authorities appear keen on going ahead with the reform -- albeit for personal reasons. First Deputy Governor Vasily Kuzubov said change is desperately needed to tackle problems such as a high turnover of staff. With the average local bureaucrat making about 4,000 rubles per month ($132), better-qualified employees resign as soon as an opportunity to earn more elsewhere arises.

"We cannot hire people on a competitive basis, and there is nothing we can do to retain people," Kuzubov said. "The qualifications of the [remaining] staff are usually pretty low."

Kuzubov said the Krasnoyarsk administration is particularly looking forward to linking salaries to performance under the reform.

This might lead to the number of local bureaucrats shrinking by at least a quarter from the current 3,600, but the work of the remaining civil servants will be better, he said.

The other four regions that are adopting similar pilot programs this month are Saratov, Samara, Chuvashia and Taimyr.

The end goal is to direct the government's focus to serving the taxpayer, said Andrei Klimenko, dean of the department of public administration and municipal management at the Higher School of Economics and the head of the team of experts working on the regions' pilot programs,

Like Sharov, Klimenko expressed optimism that the pilot programs would help change the regional governments -- and ultimately the federal government -- for the better. He said it was highly unlikely that civil servants -- many of whom want to work their way up the ladder -- would try to sabotage the reform. The same goes for the general public, even though many over 40 remain nostalgic for the paternalistic approach of the Soviet leadership, he said.

"Times are different. It's not like it used to be in the mid-1990s," he said.