Prosecutor General’s Office is to check Ministry of Culture for conflict of interest in concluding contracts on restoration

Prosecutor General’s Office is to check Ministry of Culture for conflict of interest in concluding contracts on restoration

The Prosecutor General’s Office will check the staff of the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation, who allegedly had a conflict of interest when concluding contracts on restoration.

In a response to the Deputy Ageev (Spravedlivaya Rossiya), the Prosecutor General’s Office announced inspection in respect of the Ministry of Culture officials. The Deputy’s request was submitted in early June. According to RBC, an official representative of the Prosecutor General’s Office Alexsandr Kurennoy did not comment on the subject.

In his request to the office, Ageev asked to investigate suspicions of possible conflict of interest of certain officials from the Ministry of Culture. In particular, he mentions the Deputy Minister Vladimir Aristarkhov and his brother Andrey Aristarkhov, who held the post of Director General of Restavratsionnye Kompanii OJSC (Restoration Companies). This company had concluded several major contracts with the Ministry of Culture. According to the State Procurement’s official website, over two years (Autumn 2014 to March 2016) Restavratsionnye Kompanii executed the Ministry of Culture’s contracts with a total cost of 1.2 billion rubles.

When RBC published the articles, Andrey Aristarkhov left the position of Director General of Restavratsionnye Kompanii OJSC, explaining that he did it “in order to prevent conflicts of interest that could arise from the redistribution of powers occurring in the Russian Ministry of Culture at the beginning of this year.”

Responding to RBC, the Ministry of Culture said that, during the conclusion of contracts with his brother’s company, Vladimir Aristarkhov’s duties did not allow him influence the selection of contractors or provide any benefits to Restavratsionnye Kompanii OJSC. Moreover, officials noted that law enforcement agencies had already performed investigation in respect of Aristarkhov brothers, revealing no conflict of interest. However, employees of the Ministry of Culture did not specify the date of investigation.

In his request, the Deputy Ageev believed there might have been abuses in tenders for restoration and repair. The following three companies were the main tender winners: Restavratsionnye Kompanii JSCo, Mezhoblastnoe nauchno-restavratsionnoe khudozhestvennoe upravlenie JSCo (Interregional Scientific and Restoration Art Department), and Spetsproektrestavratsiya JSCo. According to the Deputy, all companies are closely linked to the state customer represented by the Ministry of Culture. As reported by the Trud newspaper, the Ministry was the initiator of their corporatization; later, the companies planned to merge into a single company named Restavratsionnye Kompanii. As a result, the expected merger never happened, but the companies continued to participate in state tenders, including as a sole supplier. For the period from September 2015 to March 2016 the companies earned a total of about 1.8 billion rubles. According to the Ministry's employees, the inspection carried out by the Federal Security Service proved that all procedures were held in accordance with the law.

The bankruptcy of one of the oldest Russian restoration companies Nauchno-Proizvodstvennaya Firma Resma FSUE (Resma Scientific and Production Company), subordinated to the Ministry of Culture, also fueled Ageev’s suspicions. In the Deputy’s view, the bankruptcy could have been planned beforehand. The Ministry rejects these accusations.

The RBC newspaper reminds that several high-ranking officials of the Ministry of Culture have become defendants in high-profile criminal cases. The Deputy Minister Grigoriy Pirumov was arrested on charges of embezzlement during the restoration of major historical sites, including the Novodevichy Convent, the Drama Theatre in Pskov, the Ivanovsky Convent, the Museum of Cosmonautics in Kaluga and the Izborsk fortress. The Director of Property Management Department at the Ministry of Culture Boris Mazo, Director of Tsentrrestavratsiya FSUE Oleg Ivanov, Baltstroy Company Director Dmitriy Sergeev, Baltstroy Company Manager Aleksandr Kochenov, as well as advisor to the Director General of Linnit-Konsalt Nikita Kolesnikov, have also been detained as part of this case.

Deputies have also applied to the Investigative Committee with a complaint against the actions of Minister Medinsky’s subordinates. According to the parliamentarians, the officials tried to reclaim a number of buildings in the center of Moscow, in particular, the building on the Bolshaya Gruzinskaya street, which is on the books of V.S. Popov Academy of Choral Arts.

Politologist Evgeniy Minchenko believes that for now, the scandals do not directly affect Medinsky, and the criminal cases related to restoration are the result of law enforcement agencies’ conflict. 

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