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Who Gets The Golden Toilet Brush This Year?

Chechnya's Ramzan Kadyrov took second prize this year.

Chechnya's Ramzan Kadyrov took second prize this year.

There is an award in Russia called the Golden Toilet Brush that is awarded to the three officials who make the year's most exceptional, expensive, and pointless purchases using taxpayer money.

The award was created by the Russian periodical "Novaya gazeta" in 2008 after the St. Petersburg mayor's office famously wasted 12,794 rubles (about $400) of the city's money to purchase a toilet brush. Or at least it claimed so on an itemized list of annual expenditures.

A similar toilet brush in any St. Petersburg market would have cost less than a dollar back then.

"Novaya gazeta" decided to look for other, equally stunning purchases by officials every year since.

This year, the Golden Toilet Brush returns to St. Petersburg.

Marina Fokina, the head of the Center for Festivals and Celebrations, claims she spent 541,080 rubles ($17,400) to buy a doormat. A further 698,280 rubles ($22,400) was spent on chandeliers and another 129,346 rubles ($4,100) on a metronome, "Novaya gazeta" reported.

Most importantly, the three items were disposable. The official said they were used during anniversary festivities in St. Petersburg.

Fokina claimed another 1 million rubles ($32,000) for their safekeeping. Needless to say, it was taxpayers who footed the bill.

Fokina and other organizers take pride in their purchases, saying: "St Petersburg is experiencing a cultural boom. The city spent a record high, over 7 billion rubles, in this sector in 2011."

Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov has been awarded the Silver Toilet Brush by "Novaya gazeta" for claiming 113 million rubles ($3.6 million) from the government to purchase new German-made vehicles for Chechen Interior Ministry officials.

The money was allegedly spent to buy 15 Mercedes-Benz vehicles and a Porsche in April. There's a problem in that no one has ever seen the vehicles, and the officials still drive low-profile, Russian-made UAZ cars. But who would dare to ask Kadyrov about the missing money and cars?

"Novaya gazeta" also awarded its Bronze Toilet Brush to Vasily Yakemenko, head of the youth organization Rosmolodezh. Yakemenko must have dazzled the youth -- and everyone else for that matter -- by claiming to spend over 38 million rubles ($1.2 million) on catering for a national youth forum.

Another 25 million rubles ($800,000) was spent to "ensure sanitation facilities and services" during the forum, Yakemenko explained.

Money well spent?

-- Farangis Najibullah

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Written by RFE/RL editors and correspondents, Transmission serves up news, comment, and the odd silly dictator story. While our primary concern is with foreign policy, Transmission is also a place for the ideas -- some serious, some irreverent -- that bubble up from our bureaus. The name recognizes RFE/RL's role as a surrogate broadcaster to places without free media. You can write us at

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