Information on how much budget officials spend on their business trips is practically classified. However, even the disclosed information about the cost of travel of Denis Manturov, the head of the Ministry of Industry and Trade, staying in super-expensive hotels, indicates fabulous expenses that are spent on luxurious accommodation and meals for high-ranking civil servants away from their native offices.

How much budget money is spent to pay for food and accommodation of Russian officials during business trips around the country and abroad Transparency International – Russia has tried to find out. However, only two ministries – the Ministry of Industry and Trade and the Ministry of Education and Science – were able to do so with sufficient credibility.

Moreover, thanks to the public procurement website, the anticorruption organization was able to find out the details of the expenses of Denis Manturov, Minister of Industry and Trade, who is one of the richest members of the government – he declared 443.3 million rubles in 2018 and 213.5 million rubles a year earlier.

Thus, the minister prefers to stay in the president class rooms in five-star hotels, where the cost of apartments per day may exceed one million rubles.

For example, in 2016-2017 he stayed at The Peninsula Shanghai (China) paying 1 million 388 thousand rubles per night, at the Four Season Hotel Mexico City (Mexico) – 478 thousand 782 rubles, at the JW Marriott Hotel Zhengzhou (China) – 327 thousand 486 rubles, at the Four Seasons Hotel New York (USA) – 291 thousand rubles per night. 

In the Four Season George V (France) – RUB 397 thousand, in the Four Season George V (France) – RUB 237 thousand 783 thousand, in Radisson Blu Yerevan (Armenia) – RUB 230 thousand 644, in The Ritz-Carlton (Indonesia) – RUB 218 thousand 408 thousand.

In total, the Ministry of Industry and Trade spent at least 19.3 million rubles on accommodation in foreign hotels in 2016-2017. If the established norms were observed, this ministry would have left abroad by 12.5 million rubles less. But no one observes these norms.

The illusion of travel restrictions

Since official business trips of officials are financed from the budget, there are formally certain criteria for determining the amount of expenditures. Since 2005, this has been obligated by the “Procedure and Conditions for the secondment of federal civil servants” approved by the President of the Russian Federation.

Each country’s legislation sets its own standards for travel expenses of an individual official: from $70 per day in Uruguay and Fiji to €200 per day in Germany and the Netherlands. Such norms, as Transparency asserts, are not underestimated, but at the same time do not allow officials to surround themselves with luxury at the expense of the budget.

However, it turned out that the importance of the abovementioned document is greatly exaggerated and it is not often taken into account in reality. For example, any seconded official in good relations with his or her supervisor can easily count on his or her request for permission to exceed the established norms.

Moreover, in 2005, a whole group of high-ranking officials was removed from the document. Among them are federal ministers and their deputies, heads of state committees, heads (directors) of federal services and their deputies, heads of federal agencies and their first deputies, and the director general of the Russian Federation.

The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, head of the service of the Russian Ministry of Defense, head of the coordination (advisory, consultative) body under the President, the Government of the Russian Federation, head and members of the government delegation.

There are norms for officials and travel expenses for trips in Russia, which do not reflect the actual possible costs of travel and accommodation. For example, an official on a business trip is entitled to 550 rubles per day to pay for staying in a hotel room for a day and 100 rubles per day. As with traveling abroad, these limits can be bypassed with the permission of their superiors.

The same Manturov, visiting the St. Petersburg Polytechnic University of Peter the Great in November 2016 with a lecture “History of the development of Russian industry”, left 81 thousand budget rubles for a suite at the Four Seasons Hotel Lion Palace St. Petersburg. His deputy Viktor Evtukhov in October of the same year lived in Khabarovsk suite for 52 thousand rubles a day.

“When there is an act that allows the limits to be broken, these very limits make absolutely no sense. And the travel regulations in Russia directly testify to this – it is much easier to come up with unrealistic prices, and then each time to hide behind them when exceeding them, than to approve adequate prices and comply with them.

The effect of “turbid water” is obviously very good for the authorities,” concludes Igor Sergeev, head of the Kaliningrad center Transparency International-Russia.

Mysterious budget expenditures

“Transparency tried to find out how much money various authorities actually spend on travel expenses of their employees. However, it turned out to be not so easy. Thus, the information published by the Ministry of Finance on budget allocations to federal bodies does not contain separate amounts spent on business trips. No other public sources of this information also do not contain this information.

“Only two ministries – the Ministry of Industry and Trade and the Ministry of Education and Science – disclose detailed information on business trips.

At the same time, many ministries and departments “play back” the residence of their officials in public procurement, but only the Ministry of Industry and Trade and the Ministry of Education and Science provide details in the acts of work performed. Thanks to this, we were able to learn much more about the business trips of these agencies than about others,” says the investigation of the anti-corruption organization.

By specifically requesting information, Transparency received adequate responses in only two of the more than 50 requests. Thus, the Ministry of Transport reported that in 2018 it spent just over 14 million rubles on hotels for its seconded employees, and almost 60 million rubles on flights. The Federal Agency for Press and Mass Communications paid 16.9 million rubles for the accommodation and travel of seconded employees in 2016-2018.

Other ministries and departments, under different pretexts, evaded the answer with the indication of the amounts, despite the fact that the legislation does not allow restricting access to information about the activities of government agencies and local authorities, as well as the use of budgetary funds, with the exception of information constituting a state or official secret.

Only the data on business trips of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the Main Department of Special Programs of the President can be classified.