Streetwise Professor

September 9, 2009

How Do You Say “CYA” in Russian?

Filed under: Economics,Energy,Politics,Russia — The Professor @ 8:29 pm

The Moscow Times reports that the Russian Federal Audit Chamber had inspected the  Sayano-Shushenskaya dam two years ago, and reported that 85 percent of its equipment needed to be replaced.  The Chamber’s boss,  Sergei Stepashin, said that “the government and the Prosecutor General’s Office were informed about the results of the check at the time.”

This gives the lie to Putin’s post-disaster statement stressing the need to inspect Russian infrastructure to identify problems.  In the particular case that spurred the Putin’s demand, an inspection had been carried out.  The inspection had identified problems.  The government had been informed.  But nothing was done.  So . . . you can inspect all you want, but if you ignore the results of the inspection, what you get is a disaster.

Stepashin’s statement is probably a mere echo of a riot of finger pointing and ass covering going on behind the scenes in Russia.  Putin, by implication, blames the inspectors.  The inspectors reply “we did our job,” thereby directing the blame at the company.  The company (perhaps to the strains of Chuck Berry’s “It Wasn’t Me”) denies culpability:

RusHydro, the state-owned company that owns the plant, said it had studied the auditors’ findings and acted accordingly. “All the necessary measures were taken and reported to the Audit Chamber” after the check, RusHydro spokesman Yevgeny Druzyaka said, Interfax reported.

I guess it depends on what “necessary” means.  And if the report actually says that 85 percent of the equipment needs replacing, is the company saying that it replaced 85 percent of the equipment?  That’s certainly not the case.  So, the company is implicitly refuting Stepashin’s representations, by implying that the repairs the Audit Chamber deemed “necessary” were insufficient to prevent the disaster.

What’s the whole truth?  Who knows?  But whatever it is, it can’t be pretty.  Surely nobody is likely to come out looking good.

But the crucial thing is that it is clear that an inspection was made.  The results were not good.  The government was informed.  And the disaster happened.  Ultimate responsibility for that necessarily lies at the top of the “power vertical.”  Which makes Putin’s post-disaster performance, with its efforts to cast blame elsewhere, and the implicit suggestion he lacked information about Sayano-Shushenskaya, appear all the more craven.  But it appears that Putin wants to be responsible for everything, and accountable for nothing.

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  1. Putin is a cynical little bastard, if the village below had been wiped out due to the shoddy construction his response would have been similar to his terse Kursk crew response as to what happened…”they drowned”. He’s a venial, vindictive and sarcastic little freak that in a normal society wouldn’t have made it in politics or business. Fast forwarding past Stalin, he’s the scariest thing that Russia has had in place since Stalin’s Reign of Terror.

    This is a country that is doomed, oil revenues bringing nothing of social/civil value. Only the insular and incurious Russians, so close to the west and yet so far away, could fail to notice how twisted their society is. Putin is but a symptom.

    Comment by penny — September 9, 2009 @ 9:18 pm

  2. There is fascism in Russia. That is good.
    Russian fascism is of a parasitic variety. That is bad.
    Because parasitic version if fascism is bad for Russia,
    we in the US should be happy about it. I am.

    Comment by Michael Vilkin — September 10, 2009 @ 12:17 am

  3. Russia is actually a highly regulated economy – you can’t do anything without collecting multiple pieces of paper from various government institutions. However, because the system is so poorly managed, it’s effectively impossible to obey all the laws, so you have to find a way to get round them, which means bribes. But trust me, it would not have been possible to operate the equipment at Sayano-Sushenskaya without several bits of paper saying that it had passed annual or quarterly inspections by several competent ministries. The problem is, if the company had actually got all the bits of paper, its would have spent all their time in government offiices, and no actual electricity would ever be produced.

    It comes back to the complete ineffectiveness of the judicial system – if you could judicially challenge regulation, as you can do in the West, you would start to get more reasonable rules. But since each government department can do pretty much what it wants, without fear of being checked, then this never happens, even when they are actually trying to do a competent job. Of course they will set regulations that are too high, they want to be conservative. But this leads to it being impossible to obey all rules, so in effect none are obeyed.

    Nothing will ever be done about this, sadly, no matter what Putin says about the “dictatorship of the law” or Medvedev’s bleating about “legal nihilism” because for it to work, the President, Prime Minister, and their allies would also have to obey the law scrupulously, and of course they are not yet ready for this.

    Comment by Sleeper — September 10, 2009 @ 1:26 am

  4. This is another brilliant, devasasting post from SWP, and comments #1 and #3 are nearly as good as the post itself, sure and certain proof of its quality to inspire.

    If only Mr. Obama would read this.

    Comment by La Russophobe — September 11, 2009 @ 11:18 am

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