Russia's Auditors Censure Effort to Support Nanotechnology

Russian government auditors say that a disbanded government agency for research and innovation misspent about $16 million in 2008–09 on nanotechnology projects that were "unnecessary and were duplicating other contracts."

A report published Tuesday by the Russian Federation Accounts Chamber, a body which audits the federal budget, criticizes the practices of Rosnauka, created in 2004 by the Ministry of Education and Science to implement state science policy and manage state-owned property related to science, R&D, and innovation. It also commissioned federal programs and projects to research institutions. Part of a larger ministerial restructuring, it was suspended earlier this year by President Dmitry Medvedev and its functions were handed back to the ministry.

The money was used to promote Russia's nanotech industry. About $6.5 million went to an online national nanotechnology network, which the auditors say duplicates a digital scientific library and Russian citation index base. Rosnauka also spent about $1 million on information, analysis, and monitoring of the program's implementation, which the chamber says should not have been outsourced.

The audit does not reflect the government's nanotech research program, which is managed by a corporation called Rusnano. "We always make it clear that the Rosnauka activities are absolutely separate from those of Rusnano," says a corporation spokesperson. At the same time, this year Rusnano was reproached by the Chamber for spending a large proportion of its budget on its own infrastructure before awarding grants to any nanotech R&D projects.

This is not the first time Rosnauka was accused of inappropriate use of the federal money. A year ago, an Accounts Chamber report flagged $6.7 million in improper spending, including $5.6 million to the same nanoindustry development program. The chamber said funding that should have gone to research was used to pay for consulting and management services relating to various exhibitions.

The report will be sent to the ministry, the cabinet, and the parliament. But its impact is unclear, given that Rosnauka no longer exists.

*This item has been corrected. It originally stated that Rusnano was previously reproached by the Chamber last year. It was reproached this year.