In Russia, Transparency Is a Dirty Word
It was Nobel laureate John Steinbeck who once said; “Power does not corrupt. Fear corrupts ... perhaps the fear of a loss of power.” Steinbeck’s sentiments would help explain why Vladimir Putin’s regime in Russia is so scared of oversight.
Reflecting the Russian government’s aversion to scrutiny, district prosecutors in Moscow recently issued a ruling designed to hamper the ability of a leading watchdog organization, Transparency International-Russia (TIR), to operate. The document calls on TIR to register as a “foreign agent,” a designation that would hinder the organization’s ability to receive funding from abroad.
TIR, as every Kremlin crony is acutely aware, does a good job at tracking corrupt practices. In Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index for 2014, Russia showed itself to be among the most venal states in the world, ranking 136th out of the 175 countries surveyed. It is no surprise, then, that Russian officials would want to be rid of TIR.
Moscow prosecutors based their ruling on an assertion that TIR’s activities were aimed “at interfering in the conduct of government policy in connection with the fight against corruption by lobbying on behalf of its own proposals for change.”
Yelena Panfilova, a Russian citizen who serves as the deputy chair of Transparency International’s global organization, called the prosecutor’s ruling “illiterate nonsense.”
Anton Pominov, TIR’s director, also asserted that the ruling was based more on political considerations than on solid legal reasoning. “They [prosecutors] would benefit from reading [Russia’s] National Plan on Counteracting Corruption, and then rereading their own report,” Pominov said in a statement posted on TIR’s website.