“There is a large share of corrupt spending in Russia,” said Anton Shaparin, Vice President of the National Automobile Union. That it, there is a massive stealing of public money.
Two Major Russian Woes
Apparently, those who saw budgets in road construction are ingenious and dexterous.
In the Vologda Region, road builders pulled an interesting scheme. During a training session of a bicycle team, the computers installed on two-wheeled vehicles determined that on a 10-kilometer highway the distance between two standard kilometer poles is not the 1,000 meters, but only 700. The anomaly was installed only one kilometer out of ten, but based on the total cost of the project of 1 billion rubles, it is easy to calculate that the “missing” 300 meters brought someone about 30 million rubles ($509,730) of net profit.
A criminal case was initiated against a mechanic of a road company in Tyumen, who is accused of taking bribes. From November 2019 to February 2022, the man, working in a road company, received bribes from representatives of suppliers of fuel and lubricants for cooperation and provision of applications for lubricants within the framework of the concluded contracts. “The size of the bribe started from 70,000 ($1,189.37) rubles,” reported in the investigative department of the region. The amount of contracts for the supply of fuels and lubricants amounted to 52 million rubles ($883,532.)
In theory, progress should lead to the high-quality roads but not vice versa. However, given the multi-stage nature of the business, for many of its participants, who are not allowed to directly participate in bidding contests, construction materials are the source of “extra profits.” They are used in lesser amounts in road construction which violate the technology and worsen the quality of the road surface.
No one will check how many tons of sand or crushed stone are in a dump truck, because several dozen of such vehicles can come to an ordinary construction site every day.
The use of cheap materials instead of expensive ones, as provided by the project, is also a typical situation. Workers use everything they can get their hands on. The most important thing is to meet the estimate and the deadlines.
According to the estimate, the sand pit is 100 kilometers away from the construction site, but the contractor found a similar one nearby. The difference formed in such cases, which the heads of construction companies prefer to call “extra profits,” can reach 30% of the contract value.
“Municipalities turn a blind eye to the poor quality of work for kickbacks. A year later, they re-lay the roadway again under contract with the same company,” says Victor Pohmelkin, chairman of the Movement of Motorists of Russia.
Examples of Criminal Cases
In the Novosibirsk Region, the court is taking up the case against the former Deputy Minister of Transport of the Novosibirsk Region Sergey Stavitsky who is suspected of receiving a bribe on a large scale.
According to the Investigative Committee, Deputy Minister of Transport and Road Management of the Novosibirsk Region Stavitsky offered the head of the subordinate department of roads of the Novosibirsk Region Mikhail Chumanov to give him bribes on a regular basis in order to enrich himself.
The sum of more than 1.5 million rubles ($25,486.5) was intended “for the general patronage in the service and the maximum wage increments.”
In addition, Stavitsky is accused of embezzlement, and the head of Territorial administration of federal highways Chumanov of fraud, embezzlement and taking bribes. According to investigators, Chumanov received bribes in the form of money and illegal services of a property nature (asphalting of the adjacent property of relatives) in the amount of over 5 million rubles ($84,955) from representatives of commercial organizations in Novosibirsk.
In the Far East 225 million rubles ($3.82 mln) were stolen during the construction of roads. The scheme is easy. Dmitry Babak, the head of the branch of the Federal State Road Service Far East, agreed with the Minister of Transport and Road Facilities of the Primorsky Territory Viktor Svyachenovsky on inclusion of obligatory condition of the repair of the Vladivostok - Nakhodka highway by cold regeneration (reuse of recycled asphalt concrete with the addition of various components) in the project documentation. Technically it could be done only by one organization, which won the state contract. The difference between the new and old asphalt was put in the pocket of the official.
In Yamal, two heads of a commercial organization “amicably” handed over a bribe of 3 million rubles ($50,973) to the head of the Department of Transport and Road Facilities of the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous District for unhindered execution and payment of previously concluded contracts for road repair and maintenance work, as well as ensuring that major contracts will be concluded in the future.
According to investigators, another official received a bribe. The head of the Nadym branch of the Directorate of Road Facilities of the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous District, who was offered a more modest “fee” of 1,300,000 rubles ($22,088.3) by merchants. He also undertook to provide patronage.
On June 29, 2022 the Investigative Committee of Investigative Committee for the Altai Territory notified about the end of investigation of criminal case on corruptive article in relation to former head of state enterprise of road economy of the region.
As it turned out, the accused received a bribe of 307,000 rubles ($5,216.24) from an individual entrepreneur. This was supposed to help turn a blind eye to the fact that the work on sites in the city of Belokurikha and Solton district will be carried out without signing contracts for the provision of road construction equipment and asphalt concrete, without registration and signing of primary accounting documents on their performance and without payment to the state enterprise of these works and asphalt concrete. In addition, the abuse of power led to infliction of property damage to the organization in the amount of about 350,000 rubles ($5,946.85.)
“This is not just corruption, but systemic sabotage on a national scale,” says Fyodor Biryukov, the head of the Liberty Institute and member of the bureau of the Motherland Party.
Three Pillars of Theft in Road Construction
The lack of equipment is the first pillar. Even before the sanctions, we had difficulties with the purchase of machinery. Road-building equipment is considered strategic throughout the world. The production of machines for road construction in Russia has never been perfect, and today it is completely ruined. As a result, we have a lot of roads in the regions that exist only on paper. This is why there are often just “directions.” This problem cannot be solved without restoring production. It is long, difficult, and expensive but it is needed.
Harsh climate conditions, including snow, rain, and temperature fluctuations, are the second one. That is why the roads are falling apart. It is impossible to change the natural conditions, but it is possible to use advanced technologies that reduce costs and the need for repairs. In Europe, before laying the road surface, a 2 m thick “lining” is put, so the water does not accumulate under the asphalt and, when freezing, does not break it. Our road workers could do the same but apparently they like “patch work,” which is very convenient for those who like to shovel money.
People who like to steal are the third problem. “Corruption is the main reason for the high cost of our roads,” says Pavel Goryachkin, the head of the Union of Quantity Surveyors. “Besides payment of kickbacks to officials for participation in construction bidding contests, outdated standards, created at the end of the last century, give full play to fraud. Therefore, it is more and more difficult to pay for construction for the economy. 3,000 kilometers of roads are built per year in Russia while China builds 30,000 kilometers.
Every year, the budgets of all levels spend billions of rubles on the roads, but there is no end to this spending. One can drive only on federal highways without any issues, and the situation on regional or municipal roads is deplorable.