#9 - JRL 7029
January 22, 2003
State officials are panicking
Author: Dmitry Chernov
[from WPS Monitoring Agency, www.wps.ru/e_index.html]
PRESIDENT PUTIN CHARGED THE GOVERNMENT WITH PREPARING A BILL ON THE LIST OF INFORMATION TO BE PUBLISHED BY EXECUTIVE DEPARTMENTS ON THE INTERNET FOR GENERAL ACCESS. THE LISTS HAVE CAUSED DOUBTS AMONG MINISTERS ABOUT WHETHER IT IS REASONABLE TO MAKE THEM AVAILABLE FOR A WIDE AUDIENCE.
OFFICIALS ARE PANICKING: ACCORDING TO THE PRESIDENT'S ORDER, THE GOVERNMENT HAS STARTED A REVOLUTIONARY CHANGE IN RELATIONS BETWEEN THE STATE AND SOCIETY. IN MARCH, A LAW SHOULD BE PASSED ACCORDING TO WHICH OFFICIALS WILL HAVE TO PUBLISH ON THE INTERNET CERTAIN INFORMATION ON THEIR ACTIVITIES. THERE IS A LAW IN EUROPEAN COUNTRIES, IN ACCORDANCE WITH WHICH ALL OFFICIAL DOCUMENTS NOT LABELLED AS TOP SECRET MUST BE MADE AVAILABLE FOR ALL CITIZENS.
The Russian president is also trying to keep pace with Europe on the surge of state service reform: in his annual address last year he charged the government with preparing a bill on the list of information to be published by executive branch departments on the Internet for general access.
That's when it turned out that the Russian officials have an previously unknown disease: a phobia of electronic transparency. The majority of the lists have caused doubts among ministers over whether it is reasonable to make them available for a wide audience. Over 30 departments have attached their notes to the document - the number of notes exceeds a hundred!
For instance, the Emergency Ministry proposes that only certain bills and laws concerning people's rights and interests should be published. The officials are strongly allergic to publishing of the membership of contest commissions for purchasing goods and services for state needs. Their main argument is that is the participants of the contest will know the names of the commission members, they will expert pressure on them. At the same time, it seems to be more logical that the absence of such information in fact hinders in acquiring data on the presence of an interest conflict concerning made decisions.
Besides, officials turned to be very sensitive concerning the issue of publishing all civil agreements made by different departments. By the way, it concerns any agreements: from buying a plumber pipe to leasing buildings. Officials are requesting to either liquidate this clause at all - like the State Customs Committee; or to publish only blank forms instead!
Personnel issues are the constant problem of all Russian state service employees. Objections were made against the lists of vacancies in the executive branch bodies, as well as against publishing the requirements for people entering state service. It is obviously the consequence of the "family and clan" tradition of hiring officials, formed over many years. There are multiple objections to publishing information about travel by leaders of executive branch bodies. Ministries are demanding that only official trips should be included on the lists, while business and unofficial trips should be concealed from the public.
Officials are also against publishing the bills and resolutions of the government concerning draft laws sent to the Duma - despite the openness of the information in the Duma.
At the same time, there are some departments which made no changes to be bill, and some have even extended the list. Curiously, among such departments are the Federal Border Guard Service, the Tax and Duties Ministry, the Tax Police, and Foreign Intelligence Service, the Justice Ministry, and the Federal Security Service.
(Translated by Arina Yevtikhova)