MOSCOW, August 19 (RIA Novosti) – The Russian Prosecutor General’s Office said Monday it is investigating the misappropriation of 1.4 billion rubles ($43 million) of budget funds allocated to road maintenance in a southern Russian region.
Prosecutors initiated the probe after a Russian lawmaker, who was not named, raised the issue. Local officials are accused of siphoning off money intended for road repairs to cover other costs.
Misappropriating public funds is an offense punishable with up to 5 years in jail, under Russian law.
Investigators have so far found that 1.4 billion rubles from the total 4.6 billion rubles from a high-profile federal investment program aimed at road maintenance in the Volgograd Region last year in fact went on “other purposes.”
The Prosecutor General’s Office ordered the head of the Federal Road Agency (Rosavtodor) to rectify the violations unearthed.
According to a popular Russian proverb, the country has two problems – “fools and roads.” Road-building and maintenance in Russia is notoriously inefficient, and roads remain poor in many parts of the country – even when highways are frequently repaired.
In June activists in the Central Russian city of Yaroslavl planted potatoes in road potholes “to see if these potatoes will grow faster than the city authorities repair the roads,” the activists said.
In May, activists with the Tomsk Roads pressure group in the Siberian city announced they were launching a similar campaign to draw attention to the problem “planting flowers in particularly deep potholes.”
A survey released by Russia’s Federal Statistics Service in late January said that over 60 percent of Russians polled named bad roads as among their main concerns.