In early March, the Republic of Ingushetia leadership proposed that candidates for government posts should voluntarily undergo a lie-detector test as a means of reducing the official corruption for which the region has become a byword. That initiative has already backfired, however.
A March 24 report that Committee for Youth Affairs Chairman Zurab Malsagov, 33, had been dismissed after undergoing such a test was confirmed only after Malsagov’s friends launched a social-media campaign to defend his reputation. Meanwhile, Malsagov told the website Caucasian Knot on March 27 that he had not been informed of the results of the polygraph test and was still working in his official capacity. He said he plans to take legal action against those who have “defamed” him. Noting that he is the seventh committee chairman in as many years (he was appointed to the post on March 26, 2014), Malsagov commented that colleagues had warned him it was “a ticket to the firing squad.”
Timur Bokov, who heads the presidential administration’s department for relations with the media, likewise said Malsagov had not been dismissed. He added, however, that Malsagov was nonetheless due to lose his job in light of the planned merger of the Committee for Youth Affairs with the Committee for Tourism.
That merger is one of the measures announced last month by Republic of Ingushetia head Yunus-Bek Yevkurov to reduce budget expenditure. To that end, Yevkurov also proposed that all government officials, himself included, should agree to a 10 percent reduction in salary. Civil servants in Ingushetia are already the lowest-paid in the North Caucasus Federal District.
The day before the news of Malsagov’s purported dismissal surfaced, Yevkurov had publicly criticized him for not pulling his weight, specifically for his purported failure to show an interest in the problems and aspirations of young people. Yevkurov finally responded to the social-media campaign in Malsagov’s support by convening a meeting on March 31 at which he elaborated on his earlier criticisms, telling Malsagov -- who had taken as his professional motto the slogan “It’s fashionable to be honest” -- that “you only work with those people with whom it’s in your personal interest to do so." Yevkurov then proceeded to sign the decree dismissing Malsagov.
Still unclear is what role a detailed expose of alleged misappropriation by Malsagov of budget funds played in the decision to dismiss him and effectively abolish the Committee for Youth Affairs as a separate entity. That expose, which was posted on the website galgayche.org on March 5, provided a detailed breakdown of how the 17 million rubles ($292,963) in budget funds earmarked for a special program last year to create jobs for young people and provide loans for young businessmen was actually spent. Of that total, 3.7 million went on renting premises for various promotions, 1.18 million rubles was spent on “printed materials,” 1.5 million on unspecified “consulting fees,” and a further 610,000 rubles on the production of five 10-minute video clips in which young entrepreneurs described how they started out in business. A company that Malsagov owns allegedly won a 2.5 million ruble tender to organize an international youth forum. Just 1.68 million rubles, barely 10 percent of the total, were actually allocated in subsidies to young business people.
Those figures are peanuts, however, in comparison with the 13.3 billion rubles (of a total of 29.4 billion allocated between 2008-2013 within the framework of three federal programs) which, according to a separate detailed analysis authored by the opposition All-Ingush Civic Council, remain unaccounted for. Those programs entailed the construction of housing and infrastructure such as schools, hospitals, and highways, and expanding industrial production to provide jobs for the republic’s 89,300 unemployed (44 percent of the able-bodied population). Just 1,746 jobs have been created over the past six years of the planned 29,000. As a result of the failure to improve medical facilities, mortality rates from cancer, tuberculosis, and heart disease are on the rise, while life expectancy fell from 80.1 years in 2008 to 77.8 years in 2012.
-- Liz Fuller