Skolkovo Center accused of squandering resources
The inspection of the innovation center, carried out by the Audit Chamber together with the Federal Security Service (FSB), revealed that Skolkovo spends its funds unreasonably and pays too much to the employees. As a result, the Audit Chamber turned with this information to the Prosecutor General’s Office.
The inspection took place since November 2015 to June 2016 and covered the period from 2013 to 2015. Auditors were interested in Skolkovo’s contract with Adizes Institute, signed in September 2014, for conducting "synergistic organizational diagnostics." Auditors diagnosed Skolkovo with rapid premature aging and a quick transition to the stage of late aristocracy. This was allegedly caused by frequent inspections and investigations, which provoked fear among employees and unwillingness to take responsibility. The survey cost 1.9 million rubles. Auditors expressed doubts that it had been of any use for Skolkovo.
Meanwhile, the Vice-President of the Skolkovo Foundation Alexander Chernov assured RBC that the cooperation with the Adizes Institute had been productive. He claimed that the extracts form the inspection report had been taken out of context and could give a false impression about its full contents.
However, this was not the only issue that arose during the inspection of the center’s activities. As RBC wrote, referring to the report of the Audit Chamber, a total of 58.6 billion rubles had been allocated for the project from the state budget. The auditors noted that the government subsidies accounted for the majority of all Skolkovo’s revenues (about 78%), while the law stipulated that the foundation was to cover most of the expenses by itself. Another 7% of revenue (5.7 billion rubles) were received from placing budget funds in bank accounts. The center gained only 4.5% of revenues from its own activities.
Auditors believe that the violation of the budget law for 2016 was also made possible the Russian Ministry of Finance, which allowed Skolkovo not to return to the state treasury some 658 million rubles that had been exchanged into foreign currency.
Moreover, the auditor claim that it is impossible to objectively assess the achievements of the foundation. Experts attribute this to the fact that the Skolkovo’s annual targets, which can be used to assess its effectiveness, were approved by the Ministry of Finance only in December 2015. The Audit Chamber also called the Ministry of Finance responsible for the unjustified allocation of subsidies to Skolkovo. The reports of the Audit Chamber note that the center often received from more money from the state budget than it actually needed. For example, in early 2013, the foundation’s accounts contained 23 billion rubles. By the end of the year, 2 billion rubles were still not spent. Curiously, in the same year, the fund received additional 13.5 billion rubles from the budget. In 2014, some 41.2 billion rubles were allocated from the state budget for the Skolkovo projects, while the expenses amounted to 22 billion rubles. They were the same in 2015, when 38.6 billion rubles were allocated.
It turned out that one of the performance indicators, namely revenues of the participating companies of the project, consists for 40% of Sberbank Technologies Limited Liability Company (a subsidiary of Sberbank). The revenue of this company amounted to 32.2 billion rubles. Another 37.2% of total revenue accounted for 36 participants of the project, of which 6 are not even engaged in research activities, despite the fact that it is stipulated by the rules of participation. On these grounds, the auditors concluded that there the link may be absent between the sales proceeds and the research activities of some participants in the project. In addition, 11 of the 36 companies that showed the highest revenue (more than 100 million rubles) belong to offshore organizations. The auditors could not assess the real scale of assets siphoned off through these companies.
The Prosecutor General’s Office insists that the Skolkovo management company waited too long to dismember from the project the companies, which had violated the law on Skolkovo. According to RBC, the report and pre-investigation checks are monitored by the Prosecutor General's Office itself, as well as the prosecutor's offices of Moscow and St. Petersburg. In particular, pre-investigation checks into unreasonable expenditure are conducted against participants of the Skolkovo project, namely Organicheskie Svetovie Resheniya (Organic electric solutions) LLC and Pharma Bio LLC.
The Audit Chamber paid special attention to the wages of the Skolkovo staff. The salaries of 333 people required nearly 2 times more budget money than 287 grants, a total of 8.9 billion rubles. In 2015, the average salary in the foundation exceeded 468 thousand rubles. As a reminder, the average salary in Russia is 33.8 thousand rubles.
Moreover, 10 employees of ODPS Skolkovo (a subsidiary responsible for construction) were provided special bonuses. For instance, the rented apartment of the company head was paid for on a monthly basis (200-300 thousand rubles in 2013), as well as real estate agency services, airline tickets for personal travel (3.2 million rubles per year), and so on. D. According to the estimates of the Audit Chamber, the cost of such preferences amounted to 21.4 million rubles in 3 years.
Alexander Chernov commented on excessive salaries in Skolkovo, noting that the foundation has worse working conditions than those in state companies, and that control over the staff is tightened; there is no expenditure for service vehicles, the flights in business class are almost non-existent, and the hospitality costs are not paid for.
Audit Chamber specialists considered some of Skolkovo’s expenditure items unreasonable. For example, they had doubts about the contract with Rossiyskoe Pravotvorcheskoe Obschestvo (Russian law-making society), which wrote the draft rules of Skolkovo functioning. The project amounted to 12 million rubles. Skolkovo itself stated that the foundation has no knowledge of how to create such a document. However, the auditors noted that the final draft had later been changed.
After finishing the inspection, the Audit Chamber addressed the Prosecutor General’s Office. Auditors file such complaints sent if they find violations of the law during the inspection, RBC reported, citing its source. The media outlet also notes that the Prosecutor’s Office presented a submission into the facts of embezzlement of grants to the president of the Skolkovo Foundation.
The construction of the Skolkovo innovation center has been ongoing since 2010. Initially it was expected to be completed in 2015, but then the date was shifted to 2017.
In the fall of 2012, the Audit Chamber conducted an inspection in Skolkovo and identified the risk of inefficient use of allocated subsidies. Thanks to the measures of control, the foundation then eliminated financial violations worth 3.8 billion rubles.
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