Last week, at a regular meeting of the Presidential Anti-Corruption Council, Head of the Presidential Administration Sergei Naryshkin announced the completion of a draft Model Code of Ethics for all public officials (государственные служащие) of the Russian Federation. The draft Code was published on both the websites of the Ministry of Health and Social Development and the Federal Portal of Administrative Personnel (both versions are identical); the Code can also be found here. The Code will reportedly come into force in fall of this year.
The Code is one of several measures aimed at bringing Russia’s anti-corruption legal framework in line with recommendations from the Group of States Against Corruption (GRECO), which I discussed here. Russia is scrambling to comply with GRECO’s recommendations ever since Vedomosti revealed that Russia has fulfilled less than half of its obligations, citing an internal Prosecutor General report. It also comes amid reports that the average bribe size in Russia has more than doubled over the past year (to approx. $1,470), and a public admission from Pres. Medvedev that his War on Corruption has achieved no tangible results.
The Code of Ethics is interesting for several reasons, and may be useful to a number of different audiences. First, it adds a layer of plain-language rules and principles governing officials that, as far as my research indicates, has not been implemented on a widespread scale in Russia before. This could potentially aid ordinary Russians in identifying and putting a spotlight on abuses by officials because it creates a non-legal basis upon which they can complain. Second, the Code establishes a list of “dos and don’ts” for officials that, by extension, can help guide Western companies in avoiding corruption risks where Russian laws are incomplete or unclear.
Here are some of the more interesting provisions of the Code:
- No More Gifts, Entertainment, or Hospitalities for Russian Officials – officials may not receive “remuneration/awards” (вознаграждения) in connection with their official duties. Remuneration is broadly defined, and includes gifts, money payments, loans, services, payment of entertainment, recreation, or transportation costs, or “any other remuneration.” The only exception is for gifts received during “ceremonial events, official business trips, and other official events” (протокольные мероприятия, служебные командировки, и другие официальные мероприятия), and all gifts received during such events are “state property” and must be handed over to the official’s employer. Note the absolute ban on entertainment and hospitalities, and near-absolute ban on gifts, which is more strict than the vast majority of publicly-available corporate policies. While a zero-tolerance policy will be easy to adopt on paper, this is going to be a massive headache for many companies.
- Officials Must Avoid/Declare Conflicts of Interest and Must Inform Their Employer or the Prosecutor’s General Office About Corrupt Offers – no definition of conflict of interest is included, which IMHO is a flaw since the phrase itself – конфликт интересов – is entirely imported. The requirement on reporting corrupt offers is, I believe, included in the Federal Law “On Anti-Corruption Measures.”
- Officials May Not Be Rude – among other things, when communicating with citizens and colleagues, officials may not exhibit “a disdainful tone, rudeness, arrogance, false statements, or make illegitimate, unmerited accusations.” The “disdainful tone” and “rudeness” prohibitions will without a doubt be the most difficult to instill and enforce. Russian bureaucrats are notoriously vicious to the poor soul who happens to need this or that stamp or permit.
- Officials Must Dress Tastefully – perhaps the most-ridiculed portion of the code is the requirement that officials dress in order to “instill in citizens respect for state authorities” and specifically suggests “a common business style that is distinguished by its formal, moderate, traditional and and orderly attributes.” This reminds me of the Gazprom dress code I posted last year and makes me wonder – what’s with the obsession over dress codes? Especially when most lower-level public officials wear uniforms anyway.
- Consequences for Violations – officials who violate the Code can be punished with warnings and dismissals. Compliance with the Code is also considered among the criteria when making promotions and other employment decisions.
Read Kommersant’s take on the Code here.