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"An investor will not come seeing unreasonable pressure"

Sakhalin Business Ombudsman Andrey Kovalenko on confidence between entrepreneurs and authorities

Several years ago, Andrey Kovalenko took the post of the Ombudsman for the Protection of the Rights of Entrepreneurs in the Sakhalin Oblast. In an interview with EastRussia, the business ombudsman explained whether the situation in the region is improving with the rights of entrepreneurs, how the MOE and other supervisory agencies are changing their work, and whether the business community needs a dialogue with the authorities and its professional entrepreneurial court.

"An investor will not come seeing unreasonable pressure"
- The program on the main direction of Russia's strategic development "Reform of Control and Supervisory Activities" was named as a priority. How do you assess its preliminary results?

- In my opinion, the agencies that are working to reduce the pressure of control and supervision activities in relation to entrepreneurs, the work has been done simply colossal. After all, the requirements should not be the same, say, to the stall and some shaft. It is clear that the mine, perhaps, should be checked more often, and the same non-stationary object - no. 

A very good example is MES. With regard to fire safety, they are very clear about this issue. They have categories for entrepreneurs, they work today not just selectively, but systematically. For 2017 year and for my service of the Commissioner for the Protection of Entrepreneurs Rights in the Sakhalin Oblast, and my colleagues have the same information, this is a colossal decrease in the number of requests for inspections. In the Sakhalin region for 2017 year - no treatment. This is the first year, when our department has such a result. Because the Ministry of Emergency Situations conducted a systematic work on the introduction of a risk-based approach.

- Is the reform of control and supervisory activities going full-scale, in your opinion?

- Yes, the reform has been going on in full and for a long time. The fact that there are significant changes in legislation is also noted by the President of Russia. Here, for example, are the changes in the identification of the case. If earlier an entrepreneur could be checked at the request of some citizen and in order to go to the check, it was enough to indicate only the name and address of the applicant, but now it is not so. We, in our service, when we see such appeals, the first thing we do is request the passport office. Typically, 80% of such applicants do not exist at the specified addresses. That is, it is practically anonymous, and perhaps even from a competitor. This provision was recently introduced. But today a state body, for example, Rospotrebnadzor, if it has doubts about an appeal for an unscheduled check, has the right to make a request to the passport office. And if the applicant is not registered at the specified address, then the right is given not to come and not check the entrepreneur. The introduction of a risk-based approach is also very important. There are a number of such innovations now.

- What is the reaction of the business?

- Sakhalin entrepreneurs are now talking about something else. They have a lot of complaints about the actions of the tax service. And the last round table "Business and government - a frank conversation" clearly demonstrated this. Of course, the tax service fulfills the main state task - it collects taxes. This is necessary because there is social responsibility. But how are they collected and what kind of pressure are our entrepreneurs experiencing? They say that collecting taxes in this form leads to bankruptcy of enterprises and tomorrow there simply will be no one to collect these taxes from. 

If the entrepreneur is meeting, it is necessary to draw up some schedules for the repayment of debts, and the property can not be done so that the entrepreneur is deprived of the right to sell the property of the enterprise and pay off the same debts. It is necessary to apply a sensible approach in order not to let business go bankrupt. The task for us is such that the enterprise would work, and jobs would be preserved. 

And today a vicious circle turns out-arrests are imposed. They arrest all property, block accounts. Tomorrow, the antimonopoly service, and they have their own rules, for non-payment on the debtor's contract with the account that has been arrested, will make it into the register of unscrupulous entrepreneurs. The day after tomorrow he will not be able to pay wages, and the prosecutor's office will respond - they will get criminal prosecution. And that's all. But these same consequences are visible even at the initial stage. And this should not be allowed. It is necessary to allow the enterprise to function and to extinguish debts on taxes.

- How much are you already doing this work? Changes, dynamics are visible? More businessmen began to come to you for protection?

- The fourth year is already underway. Unfortunately, it's hard to compare. Our service was created not so long ago. Even the federal ombudsman recently ended his first five-year term, the Russian president extended his work for a second. It is clear that they will learn about us. Word of mouth on Sakhalin. If someone was really helped, if entrepreneurs see the business, see that there is actually help, more and more of them come.

- It seemed that for protection the entrepreneur comes to you in the last place, when all instances have been passed and there is no one else to hope for. But the trend is changing, business first turns to you for support, and only then uses other protection tools?

- Quite right. Although our powers are limited, like all other government agencies. The court is the last instance, and no one, including myself, can challenge the verdict. But they come to us before the trial. I always tell entrepreneurs that we are another door where you can come and where they will open and help you. They can also come to the Sakhalin Regional Prosecutor's Office. And since last year we have been practicing with the prosecutor’s office the receptions of entrepreneurs. In addition, we have trips to the districts where we hold receptions with the Deputy Prosecutor of the Sakhalin Region.

- What do they most often address to you?

- Recently, appeals have been sent to the part of the actions of the territorial federal bodies. In particular, the tax inspectorate tended to roll, and the number of criminal prosecutions on economic items also increased.

- It happens that criminal cases are initiated without confirmation of the validity of the actions of the tax authority?

- Little of. There are cases when very strange criminal cases are initiated. Here we have an example. OJSC Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk Bakery I.I. Katsev ". There was not even the injured party there. The investigator decided that the general director, being one of the owners of the company, by the way, took and inflicted damage on himself. And for this he must be prosecuted. As a result, a criminal case was opened against the entrepreneur in August 2016 under Part 4 of Art. 160 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation. And only our intervention, the federal ombudsman for the protection of the rights of entrepreneurs, the public organization "Support of Russia" in the person of its president, recently allowed us to achieve justice and stop criminal prosecution. In fact, such cases should be dealt with in a special order, I think. Not in the courts of general practice, where everything is littered with cases. And this is certainly not the case for the investigation of which a person must be taken into custody.

- In this regard, how do you feel about the idea of ​​creating special courts for businessmen? Is it real?

- I fully support. It's real. First, foreign practice proves this. Secondly, this is especially important for the Far East. Because today both the government and the President of the Russian Federation are creating here special privileged conditions for attracting investments. But what kind of investor will come when he sees that unreasonable pressure and criminal prosecution are being applied to an already operating entrepreneur? No investor with big money will risk their most important asset - their freedom and life. 

Our judicial system is overwhelmed with businesses, and entrepreneurs, and civil, and all sorts of different. But there must be highly qualified specialists. If it came to court, to some kind of cardinal measures, then those who are constantly working in this direction, professionals of the highest level, should have such cases, they must have a constant practice. Therefore, I believe that this proposal is very correct and relevant for the whole of Russia and the Far East, especially. 

After all, there are examples. In China, when they created their free economic zones and attracted investors, they had their own special courts in these zones to consider not only criminal, but any disputable issues related to investors. That is, these examples are. This all contributes greatly to attracting capital and technology. You just need to implement it, you do not even need to invent anything here. There are positive examples of our neighbors, we take them, copy them and do the same.

- Recently in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, on the initiative of Opora Rossii and the ONF, we discussed instruments of financial support for investment activities in the Sakhalin Oblast. How effective do you think they are?

- I was there myself. I really liked the analytics. There are many tools and programs in our region, and they are effective. However, if I were the heads of the relevant economic departments, I would reread this presentation, look at the best practices of other regions and restructure the work somewhere.

- Is the created platform "Business and Power - a Frank Conversation" effective?

- We created it three years ago. The governor responded and personally takes part in this work. True, we met quite rarely before and mainly with the executive authorities. Now we have already held two meetings almost in a row - at the end of last year and in January this year. Because such a dialogue was in demand. 

In January for the first time there were federal territorial bodies. Usually we do not hear any reports, just exchange opinions in the form of a "question-answer-proposal". But now they made an exception, although we have less time to discuss. But it had to be done. 

This proved useful. The heads of the territorial control and supervisory bodies came, though they guessed, probably that the conversation would be impartial. But they understand that they need to hear and listen to each other, work together. The executive power was also two years ago. Now there are no such complicated questions. There is constructive. 

Federal authorities, by virtue of carrying out the same reform of supervisory and supervisory activities, need such platforms, where they can inform entrepreneurs, what they are doing, how they change their work. After this conversation, many businessmen called, thanked and already asked when such a next meeting would be. 

Do not be afraid to identify the problem. When we see it, when an entrepreneur does not remain alone with the state structure, the maximum of a lawyer hired and thinks that the whole world turned away from him, this should not happen. A person should see that there is support, there is just some misunderstanding. We are now doing a working group to analyze such cases. It is important. The bailiffs are doing their job, taxing their own. But here you just need to connect everything. And besides the territorial federal bodies, we invited businessmen to this working group, chaired by the Governor of Sakhalin Oblast.

- Why does the head of the region pay such attention to this?

- Today there is a national rating on improving the investment attractiveness of the regions. For him personally meets the head of the subject. Well, how can he answer, if the federal territorial bodies do not work in conjunction with the regional executive power? We will have to build this work. Otherwise, nothing. 

At the last State Council the same was said by the President of the Russian Federation. Those leading regions, which today are at the top of the national rating, are the Kaluga Region, Tatarstan, Moscow, they have built this work for a long time. At the meetings of our working group, we will carefully consider the problem of first one entrepreneur, then another. We will see that there may be problems somewhere overlapping. Then we can come to the conclusion that this is a systemic problem. And it must be solved, to make a general system decision, so that in the future other entrepreneurs do not step on the same rake.
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