Falling for the Same Trap…(Some Thoughts on the Publication of the Draft Federal Budget)

On 18 September 2012, the RF Ministry of Finance, in pursuance of Federal Law No 172-FZ, of 17 July 2009, ‘On Anti-Corruption Expert Review of Legal Acts and Draft Legal Acts', for the second time published on its website its draft of the federal budget for the next three years.


First, it should be noted that, unlike the previous publication, the current one contains a reference to the Ministry’s standard postal mailing address, to which the expert opinions on the draft law are to be sent within the ten days’ period since the date of its publication. This is undoubtedly a positive decision. However, bearing in mind the notorious unreliability of our postal system, it can be easily guessed that nobody really expects any such opinions to be sent there.

The second praiseworthy aspect of this publication is the form of the draft budget’s presentation as a single and relatively compact PDF file, with the possibility of a full-text search. However, the published document has no links to its articles and annexes, thus making it difficult to pick one’s way through this volume of 4,064 pages (although it must be admitted fact that the document has become 5% slimmer than its predecessor). The text of the draft law proper (without the annexes) has shrunk by 13%.

But, as in the case of the draft budget submitted in September 2010, it is impossible to understand the content of the current draft without an explanatory note because, as in the past, the general reader is granted access only to the non-classified part of the document from which the 14 secret and top secret annexes (out of a total of 41) are omitted, and so no true estimates and assessments of departmental budgets, program expenditures and the functional structure of expenditures can be possible.

The secret and top secret allocations envisaged in the draft budget amount to Rb 1,775.332bn, or 13.3% of total budget expenditure. It should be noted that, in the course of only three month since the introduction of the latest changes in the current federal budget (Federal Law No 48-FZ of 5 June 2012), the share of classified expenditures has increased by 1 pp. While total budget expenditure has risen by 5.0%, secret expenditures have grown by 13.6%.   

The current Russian practice of classifying information on federal budget expenditure directly contradicts Article 5 of the Federal Law ‘On State Secrets’, which permits secrecy only in regard to budget expenditures ‘in the field of intelligence, counter-intelligence and investigative and search activities, and also in the field of counter-terrorism’.

It seems plausible that the independent experts accredited to the RF Ministry of Justice will notice the inadmissible breadth of the discretionary powers enjoyed by the executive authorities, for example, under Article 24 of the draft law; or the determination of competencies in accordance with the formula ‘has the right to…’, which is met almost thirty times in the text of the draft law and its annexes. But their having noticed these inconsistencies is unlikely to  have any impact on the established practice of preparation, approval and execution of the federal budget in condition of many years’ absence of real parliamentary control and the equally long lack of competition between the branches of power.

V. B. Zatsepin – Candidate of Military Sciences, Head of the Economics of the Military-Industrial Sector Department