Dead Souls in Russian Center of Forensic Medical Expertise

Dead Souls in Russian Center of Forensic Medical Expertise

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Apparently, the top executives of the Russian Center of Forensic Medical Expertise have decided to follow the plan of Pavel Ivanovich Chichikov, the main character of ‘Dead Souls’, a landmark satirical novel of the 19th century Russian writer Nikolay Gogol. Chichikov, a middle-aged gentleman of middling social class and means, had quite a stunning idea to acquire dead serfs. There are some details in the article below.

Dead Souls of Andrey Kovalyov, the Russian chief medical expert, have become the object of interest of the Prosecutor’s Office

Procrastination with forensic examinations, failure to comply with the confidentiality of the “subjects of inquiry,” violation of their storage conditions, and the presence of “dead souls” among the employees gained attention of the Prosecutor’s Office to the Russian Center for Forensic Medical Examination of the Health Ministry and to its head Andrey Kovalyov, who has the duties of Russia’s chief medical expert.

The Russian Center for Forensic Medical Examination was established in 1995. The Center is accredited to conduct forensic medical examinations of injured and accused persons and others, as well as to assist in the investigation of criminal and civil cases. In addition, the Center provides postgraduate education such as research degrees, medical residency and advanced training in forensic medicine.

For almost 10 years the Center has been headed by Dr. of Medical Sciences Andrey Kovalyov has been heading the center for almost ten years. From 1997 to 2005, he was in charge of the North-Western Interregional Osteological Laboratory of Forensic Medical Examination in the Leningrad region. His career history in St. Petersburg helped him grow rapidly in his career in Moscow. Since June 2009, he has been working for the Russian Center of Forensic Medical Examination. In May 2012, he was appointed its CEO. In fact, he is a non-staff chief medical expert at the Russian Ministry of Health.

According to Andrey Kovalyov’s official biography, since 1994 he has been a member of expert groups for the identification of the remains of the last Russian Czar, Nicholas II, members of his family and their inner circle who were slain by the Bolsheviks in the Urals in the summer of 1918. Since 1995, he has served as a member of expert groups for the identification of fatal casualties in the North Caucasus region. In 2012 and 2013, he took part in the exhumation and forensic study of the remains of the PLO’s late leader Yaser Arafat in Ramallah, done at the request of the Palestine National Authority.

On the surface Kovalyov seems to be a well-experienced doctor. However, there is a world of difference between applied medicines and a senior position at a well-known scientific establishment. According to the records, in recent years, Kovalyov’s performance has been rather unimpressive.

Why did the Center of Forensic Medical Expertise arouse the interest of the Prosecutor's Office?

Funded by the federal government, the center carries out forensic medical examinations for the agencies of inquiry, investigative authorities and courts within the framework of criminal proceedings. In recent years, with the knowledge of Kovalyov, the time frames for conducting forensic studies of criminal cases have varied sometimes from 3 to 5 years. Therefore, the deadlines for bringing the guilty persons to account are often exceeded in some criminal cases, especially concerning doctor–patient relationships. Consequently, these cases cannot be properly adjudicated.

Also, the Center often delays the handover of files and dead bodies to experts. As a rule, it takes place within one working day of receipt. But the Center has set a record by holding up the transfer of case files to an expert for two years.

At the same time, there are no queues and deadline extensions for forensic examinations in civil cases, as they are conducted for a fee. This fact might indicate the material interest of the Center’s top officials. For example, in 2019, a total of 605 forensic examinations were carried out there, and 541 of them were paid for.

There are 136 employees at the Center. Although in accordance with the staff schedule there should be 242 workers. Apparently, the working conditions in the Center are so poor that experts clearly do not want to stay there for too long.

So, it is no wonder that this mess at Russia’s main center of forensic medicine has drawn attention of the watchdog agency. In January and February of this year, according to the plan of the Prosecutor General's Office of the Russian Federation, the Federal Service for Surveillance in Healthcare (Roszdravnadzor) inspected the operations of the Russian Center of Forensic Medical Examination. As a result, inspection report No. 60/20 of 21.02.2020 which is available to wek.ru was drawn up. It contains numerous violations of effective legislation, including those by the Center officials, who acted under the guidance and with direct involvement of its head Andrey Kovalyov.

Mess with Dead Bodies

As the audit established, “the Russian Center of Forensic Medical Examination often does not prepare unpacking documents. In this connection, it is not possible to determine the condition of the materials received (the presence of damage or absence of packaging, the list of research objects).”

“The management of the Russian Center of Forensic Medical Expertise does not provide the necessary conditions for maintaining the confidentiality of the “subjects of inquiry” and their results, which is confirmed, among other things, by the absence of forensic experts’ personal seals needed to seal up the safe boxes for “subjects of inquiry” and files.”

“Premises where case files, subjects of investigation, medical and other documentation for forensic examinations are stored have been found at forensic investigation departments. Thus, it is impossible to ensure personal responsibility for the safety of the “subjects of inquiry” and other materials related to the expert examination procedures. For instance, storage of the subjects of investigation and case files outside the office of a forensic expert is allowed only at specially provided protected premises. The above mentioned ones are not equal to the requirements.”

These circumstances might open up access to the subjects of investigation and case files for third parties. They also offer evidence of inappropriate efforts to ensure the safety of these materials by an expert in charge, and the head of the center in general.”

“The established statutory and regulatory acts, as well as the organization and implementation procedures for forensic medical examinations are violated at the Russian Center of Forensic Medical Expertise. Its non-staff experts have no workplaces equipped for performing an examination. Because of this, they are forced to take the original files of criminal cases and material evidence (medical documentation) away with them on their own using public transport, as they are not provided with official transport. Then they leave these materials at the workplaces. In doing so, they create the risk of loss, alteration or damage of the documents.”

It appears that the Center has no license “for forensic medical examination and post-mortem examination,” which is required by the current legislation and is necessary when carrying out this type of medical activity. However, in 2019 and earlier, the Center’s employees in the absence of a special permit (license) “conducted autopsies and examinations of other corpses (the Article No. 216/18 and No. 160/18.) They added their results to expert reports, which might make them null and void, as well as render the court rulings and the findings of preliminary investigation agencies on the basis of these expert opinions illegal.”

Were There any Kickback Schemes?

It is noted that in recent years, the Russian Center of Forensic Medical Expertise has purchased a large number of expensive expert and medical equipment. Over several tens of millions of rubles were poured on it from the federal budget. However, the equipment is not used, because mostly, it cannot be put into operation due to the lack of appropriate conditions in the Center. As a result, its purchase has turned into “illegal spending of budgetary funds.”

Also, the cost of this equipment might have been overstated. Apparently, this fact has allowed the management of the Russian Center of Forensic Medical Expertise to receive its “share” for signing contracts through the Niar-Medik company. Acting as a monopolist, this firm arranged 31 contracts with the Center for a total of 166.74 mln rubles ($2.27 mln) during the period from 2015 to February 2020. The top executives of the Center, in particular, P.L. Ivanov, a deputy CEO in charge of high-tech research, apparently have “material interests” to Niar-Medik.

At the same time, the Russian Center of Forensic Medical Expertise lacks “equipment for forensic, chemical, toxicological and biochemical examinations such as a hardware and software system for investigations using the method of heterogeneous enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay with a set of expendable materials, a hardware and software complex based on a gas chromatograph with a thermionic detector, a clinical chemistry analyzer, a densitometer for patch analysis, a tissue shredder, a muffle furnace, an automatic polarizable fluorometer with a set of expendable materials…” and many more.

Incidentally, Andrey Kovalyov, the head of the Center, made public only a 30m² flat in his income tax declaration for 2018. Meanwhile, his “high-tech” deputy Pavel Ivanov has a Maserati supercar and the annual income amounting to almost 6.5 mln rubles ($88,451.26.) In 2019 and 2020, the top officials of the Center did not release any information about their incomes to the public.

Expired Products

According to the Act No. 60/20 of 02/21/2020, the inspection found that “the Russian Center of Forensic Medical Expertise violated the requirements stipulated in Part 3 of Article 38 of the Federal Law № 323 of 11/21/2011 “On the Fundamentals of Public Health Protection in the Russian Federation.” In the department of molecular genetic examination, expired medical devices were found as of 01/17/ 2020. They are Abbott mSample Preparation System produced by Promega Corporation, USA, REF 06K12-24, LOT: 10938341, expiration date 2016-12-14, in the amount of 2 packages. A large number of expired reagents and expendable supplies were also detected. They continue to be used in molecular genetic researches that are conducted both in criminal and civil cases, delegated to the Center by law enforcement agencies and courts.

These facts of using of expired and, therefore, inapplicable reagents and consumables in the research procedures might nullify the results of molecular genetic forensic examinations obtained in that manner. In turn, it might result in incorrect and illegal court rulings. These actions are carried out with the knowledge and consent of Andrey Kovalyov, the CEO of the Center. According to the documents, materials of proper quality are being allegedly purchased and used.

Tatyana Guseva, a certified expert on forensic medical examination (Attestation Order No. 1030/18 of 08/10/2018) and the CEO of Creative Dent Odintsovo, has made the following conclusion after the inspection: “Conducting forensic examinations by individuals not authorized for the job in accordance with local regulations does not impose obligations on them to perform this activity properly and does not allow them to verify the correctness of their actions. From the legal point of view, the evidence of this kind, namely, the results of expert examinations, might be considered inadmissible in the future. Numerous violations such as the lack of maintenance, expired products, etc. during medical activities do not allow guaranteeing the quality and safe use of medical devices. This can be guaranteed only if the requirements of manufacturers are met.”

Dead Souls

In 2019, A.S. Agapov, B.M. Lisyanskiy and V.A. Shchipanova, the employees of the Center, who have specialist certificates in forensic examinations and are authorized to conduct forensic examinations in accordance with their duty instructions, did not do any forensic examinations at all.

“At the same time, A.S. Agapov has only 2 publications in the register of conference proceedings for 2006. B.M. Lisyanskiy has 19 publications, and the latest two of them were made in 2010. V.A. Shchipanova does not have any publications. Employees L.E. Zavalishina and V.V. Zharov did not conduct any activities for the period from 2018 till 2020 at all. The given circumstances prove that the above-mentioned persons do not perform any duties implied by their positions. These employees exist only on paper, do not carry out any activities and are not present at their workplaces. Therefore, their salaries are illegal and might be paid to other persons.

Notably, the expert examinations paid for from public funds are delayed for many years.

For more than three years, CEO Kovalyov has had the staff who are not engaged professional activities, that is, “dead souls:”

1) Vladimir Zharov, born in 1939, holds the post of the chief researcher. He also works for the Department of Forensic Medicine at Moscow’s State University of Medicine and Dentistry. He is in his nineties and has a disease that does not allow him to move and carry out his job duties, which can be confirmed by medical documentation and diagnoses in his record.

2) Oleg Panfilenko, born in 1922, works as scientific secretary of the research board and dissertation committee of the Center. At present, he is 98 years old and has for many years been under supervision of a nurse at home.

3) Larisa Zavalishina holds the post of chief scientific officer at the department of special laboratory research.

4) Georgy Frank, born in 1936, holds the position of a researcher. He is over 80 years but still has official employment in more than 5 other healthcare organizations. In fact, Frank does not engage any research of other activities there. Nor does he engage in them at the Center.

5) Olga Denisova held the position of a researcher. In fact, she did not take part in any scientific activity at the Center.

The attendance and time sheet of the above-mentioned persons is sham. It is made in the standard manner both for the workers who are in the office every day and perform routine work, and for part-time workers. These persons have not actually visited the Center for more than three years and have not performed any work in accordance with their official duties.

Nevertheless, salaries are remitted to their bank accounts. However, it remains unknown whether it is they or other individuals who receive the money.

Fake Training

Russia has a shortage of forensic doctors for quite a number of years. Against this background, from one year to another Kovalyov accepted trainees for residency on a fee basis without any appropriate higher-education lecturing staff or a list of hospitals for internship where future experts would get training for work in the regions. However, money has no smell. Despite the alleged expansion of educational activities, Kovalyov does not organize them properly.

At present, the Center has a large number of resident medical students. All of them, both in the first and second year of traineeship, have had no practical training and no real classes at the dissecting table in the morgue, at the scene of incident, etc. In the modern world, a huge part of duties of a forensic medical expert is associated with forensic examinations of the so-called “medical cases.” However, nothing of this kind is taught to students during their residency in the Center. This fact is known from their appeals to law enforcement agencies.

After graduating from their “training,” young doctors make vain attempts to find jobs in state forensic medical institutions. However, their applications are turned down by the thanatological departments, the departments for forensic examinations of living persons, and many other departments of forensic medical institutions as they had no practical training during their studies, although they have higher education diplomas and specialist certificates issued by this establishment.

Olga Sazhayeva, a certified expert in forensic medicine (the attestation order № 1830/19 of 12/20/2019, per. No. 4679,) and the deputy CEO of the Bureau of Forensic Medical Examination, said: “Absence of its own mortuary and license for corpse examination does not allow the core institution of the Russian Federation to fully perform its functions. At the same time, probably, out of desire to comply with this status, appointed expert examinations are carried out in random hospitals that do not have any license for forensic examinations or post-mortem examinations...”

Apparently, training at the Russian Center of Forensic Medical Expertise, either gratuitous or for fee, does not meet the educational standards under the postgraduate professional training program for clinical residents.

However, under the tutelage of Andrey Kovalyov the Center still continues to fictitiously train residents, who have been misled by the sign that proudly says “the Russian Center of the Health Ministry.” In order to stop it, it is necessary to check the educational activities of the Center, to prevent the graduation of forensic doctors who will get no practical skills, as well as to protect medical students currently studying for residency at the Center from the fate of graduating without practical knowledge and prospects for a career.

Incidentally, the foundation documents of the Center have no code of economic activity from the Russian Classification of Economic Activities allowing the Center to provide educational services. Therefore, this might indicate that the Center is receiving unjustified tax benefits violating Article 14.25 of the Code of Administrative Offences. Thus, a conclusion suggests itself that the Center implements fraudulent schemes, which might affect not only future doctors and scientists, but also all the parties criminal and civil proceedings.

Like Water off Duck's Back

Kovalyov took up the duties of CEO of the Russian Center of Forensic Medical Expertise in 2012. However, despite these abuses of occupational powers, the watchdog agencies and supreme state authorities have no interest to its numerous violations of existing legislation.

For example, the above-mentioned inspection act No. 60/20 of 02/21/2020 was cancelled by the order of the Federal Tax Service No. 2003 of 16.03.2020, therefore, by the will of some top-ranking person on official grounds. Isn't it because Evgeny Tuchik, one of the members of the committee and a non-staff chief forensic expert of the Federal Service on Surveillance in Healthcare (Roszdrav,) didn't hand in his part of the act No. 60/20 to the chairman of the committee, and a month later he already held one of the senior positions in the Center?

No one took the trouble of investigating the violations of the current legislation revealed during an inspection. Chances are they were hidden by the concerned parties acting in Kovalyov’s interests. In doing so, they gave him a perfect opportunity to “clean up the documents” and avoid criminal prosecution.

At the same time, as Kovalyov repeatedly said to his subordinates before and after the checks on him personally and on the Center, he has good and trust-based relationships with top-ranking officials of the Health Ministry, the Investigative Committee and, more recently, the Prosecutor General’s Office. Therefore, any inspection in his regard is likely to be negligible.

Given the aforesaid facts, Andrey Kovalyov's activity might be destructive for the Russian forensic medicine. His further tenure as the head of the Russian Center of Forensic Medical Expertise is incompatible with the interests of the expert service in general and with the tasks of the federal center in particular.

The original article: https://versia.ru/mertvymi-dushami-glavnogo-sudmedyeksperta-rossii-andreya-kovaleva-v-rscmye-interesuetsya-prokuratura.

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