The Russian budget is even more secret

Anton Siluanov at session of the government of Russia

Photo: Dmitry Astakhov / TASS

In the introduction last week to the state Duma the governmental amendments to the budget for the first time in many years, there was data on expenditure by functional areas such as defense or security. To see what are the secret expenses, will be even harder

On Thursday, may 25, the government submitted to the state Duma a bill on amendments to the Federal budget this year. For the first time since 2008, the package of documents submitted to Parliament, had no information about the total budget expenditures according to sections and subsections of the functional classification (“General government”, “national defense, national security and law enforcement”, “national economy” etc. — a total of 14 sections, each of which is allocated to 13 directions). Full cost is plus open, closed (secret) requirements. As a result, the Parliament and the community may lose the tool, which allowed somehow to detail secret budget expenditures. The Finance Ministry sees no such problem and explains the change that is considered irrelevant, a greater orientation of the government’s “targeted approach”.

The government has proposed to increase the total expenditure budget for 362 billion rubles in 2017 (with respect to the current version of the budget law), wrote RBC. Of these, only 193,4 billion rubles go for open articles, and 168,4 billion — a secret. If earlier about the secret provision could say, for example, that the additional private costs to 118 billion roubles will be spent on applied scientific research in the field of national defence (one of the subsections of the budget classification), but now no such possibility. In the explanatory note, the government writes that “information about changes of budget allocation presented by <…> in the context of state programmes of the Russian Federation and non-programme activities”. Before the explanatory Memorandum was provided with the application, which was visible secret expenditures by sections and subsections, but now that application no.

Head of military economy laboratory of the Gaidar Institute Vasily Zatsepin, a long time analysing the transparency of the Russian budget, is not surprised: all the big budget secrecy is a long-term trend, he says. The Federal budget was moving in the right direction, in terms of openness and transparency, at least in military spending, to about 2006, and then began a negative trend, he said. Now still need to wait for further reports of the accounts chamber on the Federal budget — it publishes information on the total budget expenditure by sections and sub-sections and maybe will continue to do so — then information loss will occur. But the Federal Treasury for some reason ceased to publish such data in its monthly report on performance beginning in February 2016, tells Zatsepin (this is true, checked RBC). The Treasury and the chamber have not yet responded to queries.

Prior to 2008, total spending for the sections and subsections of the budget classification was part of the tabular annexes to the text of the bill, after been given only in the explanatory note to the draft.

Photo: Artyom Korotayev / TASS

As structured budgetary information

Structure of the Russian budget is served in three ways — functional (sections and subsections), software (programme and non-programme activities) and Agency (on the main managers of budgetary funds). In all three dimensions, the Ministry of Finance a long time is only open part of the costs, but a special Annex to the explanatory Memorandum gave the opportunity to see the full structure of costs (together with the closed part), at least in the cut of sections and subsections. For example, the current law on the budget for 2017 shows the defence expenditure of the country in the amount of slightly more than 1 trillion roubles (open part), but the total cost of this direction is inherent in the volume of 2.84 trillion rubles — more than 50% classified. The share of private spending in the Federal budget as a whole has been growing steadily since 2012 and last year reached a post-Soviet high of 21.7% with secret expenditures have almost all the sections of the budget.

In accordance with the Budget code the government introduced in the state Duma the draft amendments to the current budget year along with an explanatory note, but the format of the explanatory notes does not specified in the law. It is not part of the budget and not be included in the composition of the budget act. In submitted to the Duma the documents the government does not explain the decrease in the volume of the information provided. RBC sent a request to the relevant Committee of the Duma on budget and taxes, but has not yet received a response (perhaps not available now information later will be published by the Committee). In October 2016 the Council of the state Duma has approved a list of relevant committees, which consider the individual sections and subsections of the budget in 2017 (for example, “National issues”, the Committee on the budget, national defense — Committee on defense, etc.).

The Ministry of Finance has recently prepared a bill to improve the format and structure of the Federal budget in order to “improve the transparency” of the budget, the content optimization and the efficiency of compilation and editing. The current approach loaded “excessive detail and excessive duplication of indicators of the budget,” notes the Agency in the explanatory note to the bill. But from the three budget dimensions Finance Ministry has no plans to abandon the bill.

The Finance Ministry sees no additional classification of the budget revisions to the reply of the press service of the Ministry to a request to RBC. “The document [submitted to the state Duma] accompany everything you need to work with it explanatory notes and applications provided to conduct a full analysis. Due to the fact that the government of the Russian Federation in its work pays more attention to the program-target approach, the explanatory note contains a description of the expenditures in the context of state programmes and non-programme areas, as programme structure of expenditures of the Federal budget is significant,” — said the press service of the Ministry of Finance.

With the participation of Catherine Kapalkina

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