Aleksei Kudrin: The Accounts Chamber to become the auditor of ministries and agencies' openness

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June 8, 2019
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Russian citizens pay taxes that the authorities use for their benefit. This how it should be, but the people do not always see that the public system uses funds efficiently. The problem stems from the insufficient openness of public agencies to the citizens. The Chairman of the Accounts Chamber said that at the Saint Petersburg International Economic Forum 2019 during the open debate Implementation of National Goals for Transparency in the Digital Reality.

‘Government, the authorities for the benefit of the people is the main goal that openness works towards. We face the problem of efficient public administration, search for solutions, corruption. I believe that if we adopt the global best practices in the area of open data, we will reduce corruption by 50%,’ he said.

The availability of data for the people gives them an opportunity to control the work of the authorities, ‘in other words everyone can discuss what has been bought, how much has been paid and whether the goal has been achieved.’ ‘When I was leaving the Ministry of Finance, we had introduced the so-called "programme budget". Our task was to link funds with goals and results. That was the theory. But in practice such a link has not been created. State programmes as a link between funds and results do not work,’ Mr Kudrin stated.

In his opinion, in order for the state programmes and national projects to become fully effective instruments, it is essential to ensure the openness of their data. ‘National projects must be for the people, but nobody feels this way. I see three steps that we must take on our way. They are systemic and do not focus solely on national projects, though they are our central point,’ the Chairman of the Accounts Chamber said.

First, in his opinion, it is crucial to ensure comprehensive information: ‘Today ministries do not comply with the legislation on openness. The Accounts Chamber will become the auditor of the openness of ministries and agencies with regard to the existing relative norms and regulations. We will control the quality of data bases. Sometimes, they are impossible to work with.’

Second, public agencies must become closer to the citizens when it comes to the language. ‘Our steps, laws and projects should be easy to understand. We had good experience when draft laws were presented for discussion and feedback was received afterwards. This practice has almost been abandoned,’ Mr Kudrin said adding that the Accounts Chamber is going through a transformation including streamlining the presentation of its evaluation's results.

The third step is to receive comprehensive feedback from the citizens to the authorities: ‘Feedback must assume various forms. Answers to the questions of ministries and agencies. This report included a test that consisted of visiting all sites as citizens and getting answers. Less than a half replied. In other words, the system does not work.’

According to the Chairman of the Accounts Chamber, it is crucial to avoid the monopoly on "final accurate data". ‘Various institutions can provide their data, the expert community must analyse it. As you can see, no monopoly here. Surely, there is the responsible federal agency, but we all should participate in the analysis of methods and data quality. We will operate in a competitive environment,’ he said.

Summing up the discussion, Mr Kudrin pointed out once again that lack of openness generates the deficit of trust in the authorities. ‘Today it's reached its minimum. We are going through the crisis in the process of establishing trust in the authorities,’ he concluded.