Tag Archives: Deferments

For Most Corrupt . . .

The winner is . . . the Ministry of Defense.  Novaya gazeta assembled respected independent experts to judge which of the Russian government’s 35 ministries and departments is most corrupt.

The Defense Ministry edged out the Transportation and Economic Development Ministries.  The experts said the five most corrupt (Health and Social Development is fourth and Finance fifth) have the opportunity to “saw off” 100 million to 1 trillion rubles per year (including budget money, and money that doesn’t reach the budget).

A little context.  Recall Defense Minister Anatoliy Serdyukov arrived four plus years ago promising to bring the Armed Forces’ notorious “financial flows” under strict control.  But corruption scandals have only continued to flare around the Arbat Military District.  Just a casual recent look:  the Main Military Prosecutor says 20 percent of GOZ money is being stolen, Lipetsk highlights widespread premium pay extortion, the Chief of the Main Military-Medical Directorate is arrested for corruption.  The list could go on.

Look at the Novaya story in the vernacular for links to its original sources.  Its experts focused on the closed nature of the defense budget, the impossibility of accounting for money allegedly spent on military R&D, the inability to confirm that work was actually performed, inflated prices, and a high rate of kickbacks.

But they also focused on the simple fact that no one is officially in charge of significant amounts of defense money in the federal budget.  Just by looking at budget lines, it’s clear to them that 600 billion rubles in defense spending (and perhaps much more) are simply unaccounted for.

They also focused on Defense Ministry FGUPs that haul in enormous profits but remit little into the budget.  And lastly they noted that fake health deferments from Voyenkomaty amount to an illicit 150-billion-ruble business every year. 

This is how they summarize the corruption situation in the Defense Ministry (below распил or saw cut, a share or cut of illegally obtained money, is translated as sawed off): 

“1.  Anatoliy Serdyukov’s Defense Ministry is the richest and also the most closed of Russian ministries and departments.  This is precisely why the experts considered it the ‘goldmine of the corrupt,’ that is absolute leader in the volume of money which it’s possible to write off  without supervision as ‘expenses,’ the reality of which society doesn’t have the slightest chance of verifying.  The first corruption scandal in the new (Yeltsin-Putin) Russia is directly connected with the Defense Ministry – the plunder of Western Group of Forces property which broke out in 1992-93.”

“In the opinion of experts polled, ‘today’s army purchases and especially ‘development,’ ‘research and development work’ for the army is that sphere where it’s possible to put up to 90% or more of state financing in your own pocket peacefully and where there’s no kind of limit at all.  Not even comparable is civilian construction done at state budget expense, where it would seem there should be the greatest percentage of corruption, but there is a limit there:  in construction it’s necessary to present a final result – a finished facility, therefore here it’s possible to put a maximum of 70% of state resources in your pocket without punishment.  In army ‘development’ there’s no accounting, everything’s classified, and this means it’s impossible to check, therefore in the Defense Ministry they ‘lose’ fantastic sums.  This comes to light only rarely, when military journalists make note of ‘new developments’ at Defense Ministry exhibitions which they already saw several years before.  Meanwhile, the Defense Ministry objects to this:  no, this isn’t old, it’s new, but meticulous military journalists show photos from previous years in which even the serial numbers are the very same as in the new exhibition.”

“Such expert evaluations are largely supported by the not numerous checks of the Main Military Prosecutor when they conduct them.  So, not long ago, the results of checks into the Defense Ministry’s 13th GNII and the Main Military-Medical Directorate, where ‘large-scale thefts of financial resources’ were revealed, were substantiated.  ‘Just in several instances of criminal activity by officials of the 13th GNII and ZAO ‘Kulon’ the theft of more than 40 million rubles was revealed – this is the amount of work which was never fulfilled.  A criminal case in relation to a group of Defense Ministry Main Military-Medical Directorate and State Order Directorate personnel was launched:  they concluded a state contract with a commercial firm to supply medical equipment for more than 26 million rubles, the cost of the equipment purchased from the businessmen was inflated more than 3 times, and the state took a loss of more than 17 million,’ acknowledged the Chief of the Second Directorate of the Main Military Procuracy General-Major of Justice Aleksandr Nikitin.”

“In Kirill Kabanov’s estimation, ‘the figure of 1 trillion rubles which the budget loses in purchases could be understated.  Kickbacks in our state procurement system are 30-40%, in open areas kickbacks are 20%, but in closed, monopolistic ones they go up to 60% — in the Defense Ministry, for example.’

“‘The Defense Ministry, of course, is the kingdom of the fearlessly corrupt.  The ability to classify everything in the world powerfully helps in ‘sawing off’ activity,’ – states Aleksey Navalnyy.”

“The potential corruption of ‘defense expenditures’ lies not just on the fact that society can’t concretely check the designation of every billion of military spending, but it doesn’t even have chances to find out precisely which ministry or department exactly bears responsibility for a good half of ‘defense’ expenditures.  For example, in 2010, the expenditures of the RF federal budget were 10.116 trillion rubles – both the Finance Ministry official site and the Rostat official site attest to this.  But of these only 9.052 was officially distributed among ministries and departments, and more than 1.06 trillion rubles was used by someone unknown, meanwhile more than half of them (0.6 trillion) went to ‘defense expenditures!’  An even more outrageous situation was planned in the RF budget laws for the following years:  in 2011, expenditures are 10.65 trillion, only 9.35 of which are signed off to a departmental structure, in 2012 — 11.3 trillion and 9.4 trillion, in 2013 — 12.2 trillion and 9.5 trillion accordingly, that is with every year the share of ‘no one’s’ expenditures will grow even larger . . .”

“In 2010, budget expenditures ‘on defense’ were 1.28 trillion (!) rubles.  Meanwhile, the Defense Ministry spent 0.98 trillion, of which 0.64 trillion were ‘on defense,’ but the remaining 0.34 trillion — on communal services, education, health, film, TV and pensions.  Spending of the remaining departments ‘on defense’ was in the amount of 0.041 trillion (Minpromtorg –32.4 billion, Rosatom –3.7 billion, Roskosmos — 0.9 billion, Rosaviatsiya — 0.6 billion, etc.; the Defense Ministry’s departments:  Spetsstroy — 1.8 billion, Rosoboronpostavka — 0.5 billion, Rosoboronzakaz — 0.3 billion, FSVTS — 0.3 billion, FSTEK — 0.0 [sic] billion rubles), the total expenditures of all departments ‘on defense’ — 0.68 trillion rubles.  But it’s unknown who — unknown even which ministry or department spent all of 0.6 trillion rubles ‘on defense!!’  It’s understandable that they were spent on the Defense Ministry’s business, but why hide this (no ‘military secret’ really suffers, if the Defense Ministry acknowledges that it spent not 1 trillion, but an entire 1.6 trillion in a year), isn’t it because it’s so much easier to steal ‘no one’s’ 600 billion in defense money?”

“It’s not known which departments spend not just 0.6 trillion in expenditures ‘on defense,’ but also 0.46 trillion of other spending — a number of experts believe they are almost all under the Defense Ministry’s control, the real budget of which is twice as much as the official one and amounts to 2 trillion a year.  So half of this (or even more), in experts’ opinions, gets ‘sawed off.'”

“However, the ‘fat’ life of the Defense Ministry leadership doesn’t end with this.  It turns out to be unknown how and why 15 thousand pieces of property belong to the Defense Ministry.  Where and to whom the proceeds from the use of them go – God only knows.  But on the other hand it is known that they are still also gathering up money for housing construction on these Defense Ministry lands from simple people who then turn into deceived investors.”

“Moreover, the Defense Ministry directs 352 FGUPs (Federal State Unitary Enterprises), from which even in the crisis year 2008, the Defense Ministry received 39.3 billion rubles in proceeds, but there are problems with remitting the profits into the federal budget:  it remitted only 0.092 billion of them.  Another 126 FGUPs are directed by Defense Ministry subordinate Spetsstroy and there’s the same situation with it:  proceeds in 2008 were 62.4 billion, and only 0.017 billion in profits remitted to the federal budget.  Defense Ministry subordinates FSTEK and Rosoboronzakaz direct 4 and 3 FGUPs respectively, their proceeds are 0.8 and 0.2 billion respectively, profits remitted to the budget are 0.001 and 0.0002 billion respectively.”

“The Defense Ministry and its subordinate Rosoboronpostavka glorified themselves with outrageous expenditures of dozens of budget millions to buy furniture for their leadership – certainly made of gold, beautiful wood and natural buffalo hide.  The main defender of the Motherland wouldn’t sit or work on any other furniture . . .  Just three such orders for the leadership cost the budget 60 million rubles, and at the same time 7 million was spent for furniture for average Defense Ministry and Rosoboronpostavka personnel. The Defense Ministry made it known that it also wrote off 45 million on ‘media monitoring’ in 2010(!).”

“The Defense Ministry’s subordinate Spetsstroy has been highlighted in corruption scandals:  in 2010, just one of its FGUPs tried to ‘con’ four banks out of more than 500 million rubles, by not returning credits taken from them and attempting to organize the ‘bankruptcy’ of Spetsstroy FGUPs . . .”

“Besides, in the experts’ opinion, ‘the main preoccupation of voyenkomaty in the last two decades has become the collection of bribes from conscripts,’ since ‘from 80% to 90% of deferments for health are given by voyenkomaty for bribes – exactly for this reason the Defense Ministry is demanding the lifting of student deferments, lifting deferments for the fathers of newborns, but never demands lifting deferments for health.’  Every year nearly 600 thousand deferments ‘for health’ are issued, almost all are for bribes which run in various RF regions from 200 to 400 thousand rubles, so, the overall trade in voyenkomat bribes is nearly 150 billion rubles a year, the experts believe.”

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More on the Military Manpower Dilemma

Social Portrait of SibVO Conscripts (Photo: Trud)

Mikhail Lukanin wrote in Trud this week about the Defense Ministry’s unending manpower woes. 

He concluded that the first two months of this spring’s draft campaign showed there’ll be almost no way to avoid conscription.  Experts he talked to believe the Defense Ministry’s conscription plan is unrealistically high, and the armed forces will turn to inducting every student. 

The callup is supposed to run 1 April to 15 July, and take in 270,000 new soldiers.  Voyenkomaty have already sent 100,000 men—mostly from the Volga-Ural region and Siberia—to their units.  One-third of callup-aged men were screened out due to health problems, most of which were diagnosed initially when the men appeared before the military-medical commission. 

Experts consider the early part of the draft campaign the easy part.  Voyenkomaty have been dealing with young men not in school who go pretty willingly to the army, according to human rights advocate Sergey Krivenko.  

But he says in the last weeks of the draft the voyenkomaty have to meet their quotas mainly with VUZ graduates who don’t have any desire to serve.  Valentina Melnikova of the Soldiers’ Mothers’ Committee says: 

“Mass roundups in student dormitories have already begun.  They traditionally conduct them mostly in Moscow and St. Petersburg.” 

In the fall, 43,000 university and institute graduates found themselves in the army—that’s 15 percent of all conscripts. 

Demographers indicate that the number of 18-year-old men will fall, and not exceed 600,000 for the next two years.  That number equals the number of places available in higher education institutions.  Independent military-economic analyst Vitaliy Tsymbal concludes: 

“The Defense Ministry can fully meet its draft plan only by means of total conscription of students.” 

And it has done little to hide its appetite for students, according to Lukanin. 

GOMU Chief Vasiliy Smirnov already talked to the Federation Council about drafting students after one or two years in a VUZ, and the Education Ministry reportedly didn’t object.  The extension of the current draft until 31 August means that those finishing school at 18 can now fall directly into the army, rather than taking their VUZ entrance exams.  Similarly, the ‘nonstop draft’ means VUZ graduates hoping to start their graduate studies will now fall subject to the draft. 

Of course, Smirnov has also raised cutting sharply the number of VUZy that can provide students a draft deferment.  He talks about a 50 percent cut, expanded later to a 70 percent cut in qualified VUZy.  Trud has been told all nongovernmental institutions will lose the right to provide deferments. 

Sergey Krivenko believes in every draft about 130,000-150,000 conscripts are ready to serve [his number may be high since it wasn’t so long ago that 133,000 were drafted every six months, and surely not every one of them was happy to go].  If, according to Krivenko, the Defense Ministry stuck with this number, it wouldn’t have any problem with conscription [it would certainly have fewer problems].  He continues: 

“However, the whole point is that beginning with spring 2009 the plan jumped to almost 300,000 in one callup.  Troop commanders themselves say that half of this number is simply ballast for the army.  Mainly these are guys in poor health, with a low level of education, and also inveterate hooligans.” 

Lukanin had a second article reviewing data from a survey of 7,800 conscripts in the SibVO.  Every third conscript considers serving a burden.  Only 40 percent had a secondary school (high school) or initial professional (post-secondary technical training) education; 4.5 percent had a complete higher education.  A third of the men grew up without fathers.  One in ten admitted either misusing alcohol, trying narcotics, or having a run-in with the police before coming to the army. 

More than 30 percent said they came to the army just to avoid trouble with the authorities.  Two percent said they have a negative attitude toward the army [this represents the small number of young men willing to tell the army’s pollsters what they really think to their faces]. 

Experts tell Lukanin the poll results will change as conscripts from Moscow, St. Petersburg, and other large cities begin to arrive.  A figure of 15 percent with negative attitudes toward the army is about the norm. 

Ten percent of the conscripts have health problems.  Three percent are underweight. 

The medical condition of conscripts may be worsening.  Official data say half of conscripts have health-related restrictions on their service.  And army commanders confirm that it’s hard to find draftees without some kind of defect.  ‘Ideal’ soldiers (from a physical and social standpoint) are found only in honor guards.  The deputy commander of the Moscow honor guard battalion said last fall he traveled all over Kostroma Oblast and, of 1,000 candidates presented by local voyenkomaty, he accepted only 30. 

Finally, one last story of draft-related problems . . . Nezavisimaya gazeta ran an editorial this week describing how some conscripts finishing their year of service in the DVO, Pacific Fleet, and SibVO are not being demobbed on time.  According to this report, they are being held because the DVO doesn’t have trained soldiers to take their places and participate in the operational-strategic Vostok-2010 exercise starting at the end of June.  The editorial concludes that the spring conscripts don’t even know how to handle their weapons yet, much less find a target on radar.  NG calls it a symptom of the fact that the Russian Army never has, and never has had, enough specialists.  The editors could hark back to the need for a professional army, but instead they recommend a better system of reserve mobilization.

Sharp Cut in Contract Soldiers Coming

In the wake of General Staff Chief Makarov’s February admission that professional contract service had failed, a Defense Ministry source told Interfaks last week that contractees in noncombat positions will be sharply cut.  According to Newsru.com:

“It’s planned that by 1 July of this year only those specialists affecting combat readiness of military sub-units will remain in contract positions.”

He said this means combat vehicle commanders, driver-mechanics, gunner-operators, and other specialists, and civilians or conscripts will fill other contractee posts.  Lenta.ua noted the source didn’t specify how many contractees would be released or how many would remain.

Some of data cited referred back to a Vedomosti editorial about two weeks ago.  It said, under the 2003 Federal Targeted Program “Transition to Manning by Servicemen Conducting Military Service on Contract in Some Formations and Military Units” for 2004-2007, professional contract soldiers in permanent readiness units were to increase from 22,000 to 147,000 by 2008, and from 80,000 to 400,000 in the armed forces overall.  But in reality, there were only 100,000 in permanent readiness units by 2008, and only 200,000 in the Defense Ministry overall.  Meanwhile, the effort cost 84 billion rubles.  Vedomosti concluded:

“It seems the generals could not fulfill (or sabotaged) the directives of the country’s highest political leadership in peacetime.  Who will guarantee that the generals’ disobedience won’t be repeated in an emergency situation?”

“The Defense Ministry could not organize or make professional service in the army attractive and it sees as a way out stuffing the developing hole with a growing number of conscripts.  It’s understandable that the quality of these one-year draftee soldiers will be lower than that of contractees.”

“The abandonment of the move to a professional army promises many dismal consequences for Russia’s future.  Drafting 27-29-year-old higher educational institution graduates, who are in professional demand, could deliver significant damage to the economy and scratch the country’s modernization.”

So what is to be done?

This spring the Defense Ministry floated several trial balloons to answer its manpower problems.  As Parlamentskaya gazeta reported, the chief of the Genshtab’s GOMU, Vasiliy Smirnov told the Federation Council last month that he wants to increase his conscription base by reducing student deferments, raising the upper limit of the call-up age from 27 to 30, lengthening the semiannual callup until it becomes almost perpetual, and requiring young men to report to voyenkomaty without a summons.  Reportedly, the Kremlin has approved some or all of these proposals.

The Genshtab has proposed cutting the number of VUZy with the right to provide students deferments.  Even though deferments were trimmed in the recent past, Russians still have 21 legal ways to postpone their military service.  Smirnov claimed over 2 million draftees, more than 60 percent of the overall number, legally ‘dodge’ the army with deferments, the vast majority of which are educational deferments.  He continued:

“The number of higher educational institutions in which study is a basis for the right to a draft deferment from military service has to be reduced in stages.  Already this year it would be advisable to cut the number of VUZy having the right to a deferment in half or even by 70 percent, keeping that right only for educational institutions having a state order.  An alternative option could be having students perform conscripted service after the first or second year of studies.  The Education Ministry made this study and sees no negative consequences.”

Noting that voyenkomaty have been unable to notify 200,000 men to report, Smirnov concluded:

“Thus, the existing system of holding citizens liable who for some reason are not fulfilling military service obligation is ineffective today.  We have to change the system of notifying citizens.  In case a person does not receive the notice from the military commissariat, it is proposed that he go to the induction center on his own on the date indicated in the certificate of a citizen subject to call-up for military service.  This procedure functions in many states.”

Summing up, Smirnov said:

“A General Staff analysis of capabilities for manning the state’s military organization with conscripted servicemen showed that the needs of the state’s military organization for a draft contingent will not be supported as early as the end of 2010.”

In other words, the ‘demographic hole’ created by the sharp reduction in male births during the early 1990s is beginning to have its inevitable effect.

Deputy Defense Minister, State Secretary Nikolay Pankov and Main Directorate for Socialization Work Chief Yuriy Dashkin appeared at a Duma roundtable on 31 May to discuss conscription and conscript life.  According to RIA Novosti, Dashkin told Duma members, “Today the armed forces, dealing with a large number of tasks, are forced by the state’s economic condition, by resource provision, to rely still on a conscript army.”  Pankov said he could not give percentage figures on the future mix of conscripts and contractees in the Russian Army.  Soldiers’ Mothers Committee chair Svetlana Kuznetsova expressed doubt that the army will be able to induct 270,000 men as planned this spring.

Trud recently published a number of open letters to President Dmitriy Medvedev, one of which came from Soldiers’ Mothers’ founder Valentina Melnikova.  She asked Medvedev to end conscription, writing:

“Dear Dmitriy Anatolyevich, explain, please, why the Defense Ministry buried the idea of creating a professional army in Russia.   Back in 2003 the government adopted a special Federal Targeted Program on the full manning of all permanent readiness units with contractees.  All together, it was proposed by 2008 to bring into the forces 147,000 professional sergeants, for this 79 billion rubles was allocated.  The Defense Ministry reported that it was managing the task, and promised to increase the number of contractees in the army, and reduce the share of conscripts.  But in the end everything turned out exactly opposite.  At the beginning of this year the military officially stated that the task of building a professional army is being put off for indefinite long term.  As regards conscription into army units, the Defense Ministry intends to take it to 700,000 per year.  It’s simply impossible in Russia to find so many boys fit for military service according to the state of their health.  Almost a third of all conscripts that end up in the army have serious illnesses.  They’ll make just as many young citizens serve who have parents who can’t work.  End conscription and force the generals to create an army not of boys, but of professionals.  And don’t believe the generals when they say Russia doesn’t have the money for a professional army.  Independent experts believe that the state, if all expenditures are considered (pay for voyenkomat doctors, medical evaluation in hospitals, transporting conscripts to their service locations, assistance to soldiers’ wives, etc.), spends 150 billion rubles every year on conscription.  It seems to me that for this money it would be fully possible to maintain a fully contract army in a worthy condition.”