The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) recently recommended that Russia enforce liability for offering or promising a bribe, and not just the actual payment of one. The OECD also stated that third-parties should be covered by the bribery offense, but most importantly, measures should be available to identify and seize unlawful assets.
Russia remains one of the most difficult places to do business in the developed world, and the issues raised by the OECD are especially relevant when considering state-owned corporations — one of the most corrupt business sectors in Russia. Most were created to develop state strategic businesses as non-profits that report to the president, but they soon became completely “untouchable” and operate without any public oversight. To change the current situation, prime minister Medvedev recently urged the management of state-run companies to be more transparent and accountable to the public. Finally, new laws have been passed that obligate companies to publish information on their contracts in the mass media to allow the public to better monitor state companies. Another goal is to remove government officials from the board of directors of such companies.
But some experts say that new rules implemented to better monitor state contracts resulted in kickbacks and graft worth as much as 2% of Russia’s GDP. The broader issue has to be addressed to improve the situation: Punishment has to be inevitable for any unlawful action. Public institutions play a major role in this process, otherwise authorities will always have an ability to choose whom and when to prosecute as we’ve seen in Khodorkovsky’s case. Although increased public awareness alone won’t solve the problem, it certainly would be a good start.