Ukraine’s anti-corruption system “full of loopholes”, say transparency campaigners

16 Aug 16

A major Ukrainian effort to stem official corruption and thus unlock the next tranche of IMF bailout funds got off to a difficult start after campaigners highlighted systemic loopholes and condemned it as little more than “window dressing”.

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Ukraine's new prime minister Volodymyr Groysman. Credit: Senat Rzeczypospolitej Polskiej

Ukraine's new prime minister Volodymyr Groysman has promised the e-declaration system will be launched fully as soon as possible. Credit: Senat Rzeczypospolitej Polskiej

 

An electronic system, under which public officials will have to declare their income and assets for online publication, did meet its deadline for launch yesterday, but did so without the necessary security certification.

Without the approval of Ukraine’s communications oversight body, information on the system cannot be used in court.

Transparency International said that launching the system without certification presents a major vulnerability, as public officials, who are only obliged to post information to the system once, could now under-declare their income, property and other assets with impunity.

Yaroslav Yurchyshyn, executive director of Transparency International Ukraine, said that it was feared the system would open with “cynical loopholes”, and now this is what has happened.

He called on the agencies tasked with fighting corruption, including the National Agency for Corruption Prevention and the State Agency for Information Protection and Special Communications of Ukraine, to “take responsibility”.

The launch of the e-declaration system is integral to Ukraine securing visa-free travel in Europe, financial assistance from the European Union and the World Bank, and the next tranche of the IMF’s $17.5bn bailout, which had been delayed over corruption fears.

The fund had said it was nearing release of the long-awaited $1.7bn disbursement and expected it to be delivered in July, but later announced its executive board would not make a decision until mid August.

The tranche, Ukraine’s first since August 2015, was delayed after the fund became frustrated with the slow pace of anti-corruption reform in Ukraine. At one point, it threatened to withdraw support altogether.

The creation of the e-declaration system was meant to help meet some of the IMF’s requirements.

Prime minister Volodymyr Groysman, who vowed to crack down on graft in the country after his predecessor resigned over stalling corruption reforms, said that while the electronic declaration system worked yesterday, it was “sadly so far only in a testing mode”.

He promised the system, which has hit a number of obstacles over the last six months, would be launched fully as soon as possible.

José Ugaz, chair of Transparency International, said while this “may seem like a small technicality”, certifying the system is an important step to winning back the trust of “Ukrainians who are fed up with the corruption that is crippling their country”.

He said: “[Ukraine’s] president Petro Poroshenko promised that the e-declaration system would be introduced on 15 August – but without a security system it is simply window dressing. This will be seen as a symbolic move to let corruption off the hook.”

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