From law enforcement to social services, Russian state agencies enjoy an unprecedented degree of bureaucratic autonomy and organizational closure. State employees have developed practices of reducing their accountability not only to civil society but also to the higher authorities and control agencies within the government. Only law enforcement agencies can actually hold civic bureaucrats accountable, but they, too, exhibit the same closure patterns. As a result, the workplace situation of the average state employee combines low accountability for the outcomes of his or her work with high risks of criminal prosecution for failure to properly document and formally justify even the most minor action. Combined with low levels of trust characteristic of post-soviet Russian society in general, this produces a specific kind of governmentality within state agencies. Searching for ways to restore accountability and protect themselves against the risk of prosecution, the higher ranks promote strict accounting and reporting rules, extensive internal regulation, and performance evaluation systems stressing ‘objective’ indicators over practical outcomes.
The Russian government overregulates itself to the extent where the production of public goods is practically paralyzed regardless of funding, and corruption becomes the only stimulus for higher level bureaucrats and law enforcers to remain loyal employees despite overload and high prosecution risks.
Ella Paneyakh is Senior Researcher at the Institute for the Rule of Law and Lecturer at the Department of Political Science and Sociology at the European University at St. Petersburg. Currently, she is a Guest at the IWM.