MOSCOW, July 31 (RIA Novosti) – Russia’s Audit Chamber said Wednesday it had uncovered “indications of corruption” in contracts for the restoration of buildings belonging to St. Petersburg’s Hermitage Museum concluded between the Culture Ministry and a large construction company.
The alleged graft took place between 2007 and 2012 as a result of collaboration between the Culture Ministry, restoration company Intarsia and the state-owned St. Petersburg Building Project Investment Fund, according to a statement posted on the Audit Chamber’s website.
As well as the loss of state money, the World Bank, which provided financing for the project, also suffered as a result of the alleged corruption, according to the Audit Chamber.
A spokesperson for the Culture Ministry said that the ministry had not been informed by the Audit Chamber of the findings, but “as soon as we receive official documents from the Audit Chamber we will work on this.”
It was “a pity” the Audit Chamber had made such claims, a spokesperson for Intarsia said, but declined to provide any further comment on the graft allegations.
The exact scale of the corruption was not made clear by the Audit Chamber.
But the oversight body said that in 2010, the Culture Ministry and the St. Petersburg Building Project Investment Fund canceled a tender for carrying out reconstruction work in the eastern wing of St. Petersburg's General Staff building, owned by the Hermitage. The contract was instead awarded to Intarsia, with whom an additional contract worth 6.2 billion rubles ($188 million) was subsequently signed, according to the Audit Chamber.
“[This] allowed Intarsia to gain a significant volume of extra earnings at the expense of the federal budget and loans from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development [part of the World Bank],” the Audit Chamber said.
Itarsia won a contract for the recostruction and restoration of the General Staff building in 2008 worth 4.4 billion rubles ($133 million), and they were awarded a contract for the second tranche of reconstruction in 2010, according to media reports.
Work at the historic General Staff building, which was designed by Italian architect Carlo Rossi in the early 19th century, began is expected to be completed this year, according to Intarsia’s website. It will become an extension of the Hermitage Museum and will house items from the museum's collection.