“Illegal Seizure” of Public Council at Rosleskhoz Excites Interest in Open Government
Today, June 22nd, during the session of Government Commission for the Coordination of the Open Government it has been decided to make a detailed inspection and take under special control the case of violations of law by Rosleskhoz when it excluded some members of its Public Council – mostly representing the private sector and NGOs – and invited new ones at its own choice. Rough violations of the Council’s reforming procedure were named an “illegal seizure” by the session members. “Certainly, Public Chamber should immediately take the special control over this issue,” said Valery Fadeev, the Secretary of the Public Chamber.
This was also approved by the Minister for Open Government Affairs, Mikhail Abyzov. From his point the situation shows signs of “government authority operation on removing unfavorable members and Head of Public Council”.
“We need such Public Councils that authorities' heads want to be dissolved and that struggle for their existence and apply to the Minsters, to the Prime Minister and even to the President to gain their point. We should protect such Councils as we need them at all authorities. This is a good case to be solved by the Public Chamber as we need to discuss such problems. Perhaps such “Illegal seizure” of the Public Council will be considered as a breach of a clause soon,” concluded Mikhail Abyzov.
This May members of Public Council at Rosleskhoz (Federal Forestry Agency of Russia) have addressed Minister for Open Government Affairs Mikhail Abyzov and the Public Chamber with complaints about violation during reforming the Council. The letter reported that no obligatory advance notification about reforming and beginning of the competitive selection were made. Finally, the new Public Council members were reelected without competitive selection and now it contains members of Agency’s subordinate organizations that is far way above the law.
“We ask to withdraw an order that assigned “illegal” Council’s reformation and that hasn’t been made public yet. The reason of “illegal seizure” of the Council is its members’ principled stance on vital issues,” said Conservation Director of WWF-Russia Evgeny Shvarts, who chairs the Council for the last 12 years.
Those actions of the Federal Forestry Agency have not found support of the Public Chamber and the Open Government. “In fact the Council was newly formed without competitive selection and it was an act of law-breaking. We have to deal with this egregious and outstanding case,” stated Vladislav Grib, Head of Commission for Public Control and Interaction with Public Councils. He underlined that extension of the term of Public Council doesn’t require any changes in its membership.
The procedures of Public Councils’ formation and their operational efficiency were also discussed by President of Russia Vladimir Putin during his recently meeting with newly elected members of the Public Chamber. “It should be productive and result-oriented activity that improves authorities’ work. This is an extensive work that serves the needs of society,” said Vladimir Putin during the meeting.
Public Councils that are formed by the representatives of public organizations and NGOs should provide independent and effective public monitoring of government activities. WWF-Russia reminds that in the forest sector in Russia many unsolved and important problems persist, including the necessity of National Forest Heritage creation. They claim prompt reaction and support from the government. For this reason, it is essential to make a stand for Public Council at Rosleskhoz formed by independent experts and aimed at result-oriented work.
Headline photo: © Igor Shpilenok