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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Plan Aims at Making Bribes Unattractive

VedomostiSergei Naryshkin
Civil servants will be paid to refuse bribes under a pilot program ostensibly aimed at stamping out corruption.

The $9 million program, spearheaded by Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Naryshkin, is set for a trial run in 11 government institutions and 19 regions this fall and will offer compensation packages aimed at making bribes less tempting, said Vladimir Yuzhakov, one of the program's co-authors.

A Levada Center poll released last week said corruption was the primary worry of Russians, a sentiment some analysts say authorities could seek to exploit by initiating a public crackdown on graft ahead of the March presidential election, when President Vladimir Putin is expected to hand over power to a handpicked successor.

Naryshkin, whose public profile has risen sharply in recent months, is considered by some analysts to be a potential successor to Putin.

Under the program, all officials who come into contact with the public will have their regular work contracts torn up, Yuzhakov said. They will then face a choice: they can sign a new, instantly terminable contract that permits greater oversight of their work but also offers a better compensation package.

Alternately, they can look for a new job, he said.

Yuzhakov, head of the Center for Strategic Development, said the compensation package under the pilot program would be comparable to a "performance-related bonus."

It is unclear whether the compensation package would be comparable to the money bureaucrats can make through unofficial business channels.

"Unfortunately, corruption is systemic," Yuzhakov said. "That means everyone -- from passport issuers to traffic police -- is a suspect."

And so are their bosses, which is the real problem, said Yury Korgunyuk, a political analyst at the Indem anti-corruption think tank.

"It's just rubbish," Korgunyuk said. "The corrupt will check up on the corrupt. And anyway, what's the point of such a program when a bribed judge will decide whether the official has been dabbling in corruption?"

Laws currently on the books are sufficient to deal with corruption, but no one adheres to them, Korgunyuk said.

"It's not all about raising wages and conditions," he said. "You have to have independent institutions: an independent media, an independent society."

Under the program, managers will get powers to check up on employees. Telephones can be bugged and cameras installed to track their movements, Yuzhakov said. Court orders are usually required for employee surveillance.

Rights activists have expressed concern over wiretapping and video surveillance practices by law enforcement authorities.

The program's authors have also drawn up a list government posts especially prone to corruption, such as regional officials responsible for distributing allocated federal resources, Yuzhakov said.

Upon completion of the pilot program, the head of participating government institutions and regions will have the choice of whether to implement the program on a permanent basis, Yuzhakov said, something that is unlikely to happen before June 2008.

Some analysts say a high profile battle with corruption would help Naryshkin gain popularity should he be tapped as a presidential candidate.

"Naryshkin is not a naive person," said Vladimir Pribylovsky, head of the Panorama think tank. "If he is proposing such a naive set of measures to fight corruption, it means he is only interested in self-propaganda."

Attempts to reach Naryshkin for comment Monday were unsuccessful.