Defense Ministry to Spend Extra $3 Mln on Site

Russia’s Defense Ministry will spend an extra 90 million rubles ($3 million) to revamp its website, which has already come under investigators’ scrutiny over alleged theft of budgetary funds, a military source said on Wednesday.

“In 2012, 90 million rubles were allocated on the further modernization of the Defense Ministry’s site. Part of this amount will be spent on salaries to new employees, but most of the money will be spent to develop the site’s People’s Exploit page, which contains an electronic database of soldiers and officers who perished during World War Two,” the source said.

The military has already shelled out 36 million rubles ($1.2 million) to have its online domain modernized, but the project was never completed, the Military Prosecutor General’s Office said on its own website.

The costly update for the Russian Defense Ministry website that downloaded it with the Tetris game instead of state-of-the-art patriotic shooter games was likely fraud, military prosecutors said on Tuesday.

The project was overpriced to begin with, and military officials did not check whether the work done was worth the money when they paid the bill to the site designer in December, the report said.

Prosecutors identified no suspects, but said they have opened a case on charges of large-scale fraud, punishable with up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to 1 million rubles.

The Defense Ministry said on Tuesday that the website was actually enhanced during the revamp, with multimedia features added and technical specs boosted. But it avoided denying the allegations outright, saying only that it was cooperating with prosecutors on the matter.

The story first hit the media spotlight in January. Reports focused at the time on simple flash games, including Tetris, Minesweeper and Battleship that the site offered instead of modern war-themed computer games that Russian military officials have been demanding since 2010.

The four games on the ministry’s website cost around 320,000 rubles ($11,000) to produce each, while just $1 million sufficed to create a state-of-the-art massive multiplayer online game, Izvestia daily said at the time.

The publication did not provide any estimate for the total cost of the ministry’s updated website, which has been endorsed with a “test version” tag ever since the revamp.

A spokesman for the developer, IT company Systematic, said it has done everything that its contract with the Defense Ministry required. He said the only problem was that the company missed the deadline, which resulted in a fine of 2.8 million rubles for the company.

Up to 20 percent of all military spending is lost to embezzlement, Military Prosecutor General Sergei Fridinsky said last year.

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