The Audit Chamber insists on handling Chukotka's (a peninsula in northeastern Russia) financial situation.
"The essence of Chukotka's financial situation, which the Audit Chamber's conclusions allegedly distort, is that in 2003 the sum total of the financial violations made up, in effect, one third of the area's revenues," a press release from the Audit Chamber said. "The misuse of funds alone reached 547 million rubles [$1 is approximately 29 rubles]."
The Audit Chamber made this statement in response to a report circulated by Chukotka's government yesterday. According to the report, "the conclusions of the Audit Chamber's audit on the region's bankruptcy do not reflect the essence of the area's financial situation and they discredit the government's work to pay the area's debts and improve the socio-economic conditions in the region."
The Audit Chamber recalled that misuse of budget funds is a serious violation of the Russian Criminal Code and that those responsible could face prison.
The Audit Chamber said that the region's debt to the federal budget was as large as it was before and that it exceeded the area's revenues by more than 100%, something the Chukotka authorities admit.
"This does not correspond to the Budget Code, which limits the state debt of an entity of the federation to its revenues," the press release said. "Also, the claim that the possibility to begin settling the issue of returning the 'gold credit' appeared only this year conflicts with reality, since it was envisaged by the 2002 federal budget."
Sergei Stepashin, the chairman of the Audit Chamber, told journalists Monday that it would be wrong for well-known businessman Roman Abramovich (the largest Sibneft shareholder and one of the richest men in Russia whose fortune is estimated at several billion dollars) to continue holding the post of the governor of the Chukotka Autonomous Area.
"Mr. Abramovich has a hobby - football - and let him continue dealing with that [Mr. Abramovich owns the Chelsea football club], but experiments should not be conducted on the region or the people," Mr. Stepashin said.
According to Mr. Stepashin, the results of the Audit Chamber's audit of Chukotka allowed him to draw such conclusions.
"Based on the results of the audit, I can say that this really lets the president of Russia down," Mr. Stepashin said.