Session to discuss improvement of anti-corruption laws

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President of Belarus Aleksandr Lukashenko gave an instruction to prepare a unified anti-corruption draft bill taking into account all amendments and to submit it for public consideration at the session held on 31 July to discuss improvements of anti-corruption laws.

The head of state noted that it is not the first discussion of efficient ways to confront this social ill.

“I think there is no need to explain how dangerous corruption is. It is by right considered one of the biggest threats to national security,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said. In his view, corruption can destroy any, even the most perfect system – social or economic one. The disproportion of income of corrupt and law-abiding people can lead to social protests.

“Crimes committed by corrupt officials erode public trust in authorities, impede the work of social mechanisms, hamper the implementation of investment projects, and badly affect the performance of economic operators. Therefore, any attempt to steal something from the state or to act in defiance of established regulations using connections, gifts, kickbacks, money siphoning schemes, briberies should be punished regardless of the ranks, positions and former achievements of perpetrators,” the President said.

The Belarusian President emphasized that it is important to understand that corruption is not only about bribes, the thing everybody knows about. Corruption schemes are numerous and sophisticated; they are detected in various walks of life and constantly adapt to the changing environment.

Aleksandr Lukashenko calls for an efficient response to all corruption-related risks and threats. “I believe that we are well-positioned to root out the craving for illegal gains and to create the conditions when easy money lovers will stop to think whether the game is worth the candle,” Aleksandr Lukashenko emphasized.

“At least, those prisoners who have served or are serving their prison terms have a clear-cut answer to this question – the game is not worth the candle,” the head of state said.

The President stressed that highly efficient legislation is one of the cornerstones of the national anti-corruption system. The President believes that the legislation in this area should take into account both the experience of domestic law enforcement and best international practices.

"Having read these documents, I thought whether our anti-corruption legislation is comprehensive and efficient enough? I would not like to revisit this issue, for example, in a month,” the head of state said.

"At the end of last year, we decided which adjustments we needed to introduce to the anti-corruption legislation. The Prosecutor General's Office in conjunction with other bodies prepared the draft law and decree of the head of state. Today we must analyze how effectively the innovations in these drafts laws can "undermine" the interest in committing corruption offences,” the President noted.

In particular, there are proposals to toughen control over incomes and property of high-ranking officials and their relatives. "People should know how officials and their relatives live, where their money and property come from. This is, in my opinion, a normal international practice,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

Plans have been made to confiscate the property of a government official if its cost clearly exceeds the income earned from legitimate sources. “If it is determined that a government official lives beyond his means, that part of the property which was obtained in an unfair way, is subject to seizure," the President insisted.

Other proposed measures include the restriction of the right to pensions for civil servants and military personnel accused of grave and very grave corruption and other crimes. In addition, there are proposals to ban people having a corruption crime record from taking up government jobs.

Aleksandr Lukashenko underlined that he wants to hear from the participants of the meeting how effectively the mechanism of implementing such measures can operate in practice and whether these measures are adequate. "We must be sure that we give the law enforcers the additional tools which they lacked," the President noted.

Aleksandr Lukashenko gave an instruction to prepare a unified anti-corruption draft bill taking into account all amendments and to submit it for public consideration. “By speaking about this issue at this level I wanted to emphasize the necessity to launch a serious process to reform anti-corruption legislation. It is essential to work out a comprehensive bill taking into account all additions and to publish it in the mass media. We need to study all proposals of people, make certain amendments to make this legal document the most comprehensive, objective and adequate bill to date,” the head of state remarked.

“This will be an old bill with additions and amendments. But keep in mind that today we will not discuss this issue for the last time. Therefore, introduce your amendments and submit the bill for public consideration as soon as possible. I will express my criticism in public after I read your amendments. I will decide that you intentionally bypassed certain corrupt practices and did not spell out measures of fight against them. Keep it in mind. This bill shall be submitted to the President and be ready for publication in a week,” the head of state said.

The President also urged to consider measures to inform people about the amendments in the anti-corruption law. Aleksandr Lukashenko also reminded that ignorance of laws does not release from responsibility. “It is up to each person, each civil servant to decide. I am convinced that even the civil servant who does not know all the trivia of the corresponding legal act understands where the limit which he is not allowed to cross is,” the Belarusian leader believes.

Aleksandr Lukashenko warned civil servants against illusions that it is possible to conceal a crime. “Believe me, nothing can remain a mystery. Someone will give it away. I have enough channels of information. Be sure that I will not leave this information without attention,” the head of state stressed.

The President emphasized that it is unacceptable for officials to lobby the interests of some private businesses. “I have already spoken about lobbying private businesses. This also pertains to intermediaries. The government should expect no mercy for doing it,” the Belarusian leader has underlined.

Speaking about intermediaries, the head of state reminded about the instruction that was given during his recent working trip to Minsk District. Back then the President ordered to check the transparency of transactions to purchase goods for the agricultural sector. “Will it be cheaper to use mediators’ services or to buy things directly from the state that can offer a discount if a deal is big,” Aleksandr Lukashenko asked.

Aleksandr Lukashenko acknowledged that Belarusian civil servants may have smaller financial benefits as compared to their colleagues in other countries. “But nobody is poor,” the Belarusian leader stressed.

“As long as I am the President, I cannot give you more than you get now. We do not have extra money, oil, gas. People live by their labor here. Therefore, if a person wants to earn much, to get quick and easy money, it is better they change the job,” he said.

“I require one thing – do not steal from the state. If you try to steal from your people, do not wait for mercy,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

“Those who abuse power should be punished immediately. We also need to think of whether the children and relatives of civil servants should be banned from doing business in general,” the President said.

Aleksandr Lukashenko directed the government to take immediate steps to prevent ungrounded pay rises for top managers. The President was informed that the salaries of some company heads rise for no reason and these pay rises are incommensurate with the increase in labor productivity. “This is the last time we discuss salaries. Right away you pass some regulation to make sure that top managers earn as much as they deserve,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said addressing Belarusian Prime Minister Mikhail Myasnikovich.

“It is absurd indeed. The director of Kamvol, the company that barely makes ends meet, is paid more than $2,000. In fact, he should not be paid any money at all. How can one receive $2,500-3,000, or maybe even $5,000 with all the bonuses if workers receive $300-500?” the Belarusian President asked.

The head of state instructed the State Control Committee to pay attention to company heads. “Everything depends on a company chief. If top managers are crystal-clear, we will be able to eradicate corruption,” the Belarusian leader is convinced.

The President’s instructions on pay rises also pertain to the banking sector. “Sort things out in the banking sector regardless of any environments and market reforms. Give them clear-cut targets regarding housing loans, salaries; there will be no bonuses. For anyone,” Aleksandr Lukashenko demanded. Anticipating possible criticism, the head of state said: “We live and maintain order in our country”.

Aleksandr Lukashenko stressed he would go to any length to fight corruption including among high-level officials. “I will do anything to fight corruption,” the Belarusian leader said.

According to Aleksandr Lukashenko, the most terrible thing is when high-level officials are involved in corruption activities. In this case any efforts to fight corruption will look ridiculous in the eyes of people.

The head of state stressed that the issues to strengthen the fight against corruption have not been triggered by the forthcoming election campaign as some say in the Internet space. “There is no need for me to draw attention to this matter,” the President noted.

The President reminded the participants of the meeting about the consequences of rampant corruption in some countries, including neighboring Ukraine. According to the head of state, if the authorities do not fight this crime efficiently, they will become inappropriate for the people, just as it was before the first presidential elections in Belarus.