16.12.2005 | Yevhen Zakharov

Yet more on the President’s “secret” decrees


The inverted commas around the word “secret” are required since the stamp “Not to be published” which has been assigned in the last 10 months to 42 Decrees issued by President Viktor Yushchenko is not set down in any law. Nor have regulations for working with documents bearing this stamp been provided by any openly available normative act.  The same applies to the stamp “Not to be printed” which is used by the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine: there have been 12 such documents. 

Of the 42 Presidential Decrees, 38 were given the stamp “Not to be published” before 1 April. There then followed a public promise to put an end to the practice of using this illegal stamp. It transpired that its application was regulated by an instruction not for public consumption from the President’s Administration which had not been printed, since the instruction itself bore this selfsame stamp restricting access (or perhaps the stamp “Not to be printed” – how these stamps differ one from the other being difficult to fathom). However four more Decrees “Not to be published” have appeared since them – No. 663 from 18 April, No. 815 from 18 May, No. 1203 from 23 August and No. 1466 issued on 19 October. It is difficult to know what these Decrees are about. Several civic activists who sent formal requests for information to the President, asking for the names of the Decrees to be divulged (not even the actual texts!) were not graced with any answer at all, and were forced to lodge a complaint with the courts about the President’s lack of action. It is known that the first two Decrees bearing this stamp, issued under the numbers 116 and 117 on 21 January concerned appointments or dismissals of the heads of local departments of the Security Service of Ukraine (SSU).

However there was also a 43rd Decree “Not to be published”, numbered 1616/2005 from 18 November 2005 – together with a Decree declaring the anniversary of the Orange Revolution (22 November)  Freedom Day and another on fighting the shadow economy. On 21 November we found it on the President’s official website, yet several hours later it had disappeared. On that same day it was possible to find it on the website of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, however it was removed from there as well. Then on 22 November the text of this Decree had already appeared on the President’s website. It bore the title “On amendments to the Decree of the President of Ukraine from 21 March 2002, No. 277” and introduced amendments to Appendix No. 6 to the latter Decree: “On the lists of posts of military personnel and officers of law enforcement bodies which can be held by higher officer (commanding) personnel, as well as the highest military and special military ranks for these posts” and included the text of the actual Appendix. Amendments to Appendix No. 6 to Decree No. 277/2002 had been introduced previously through Decrees No. 837/2003 from 15 August 2003, No. 1225/2003 from 29 October 2003 and No. 1256/2004 from 18 October 2004. The first three Decrees bore the stamp “Not to be printed”, while Decree No. 1256/2004 was issued with the stamp “Not to be published”. Appendix No. 6 contained a list of higher posts in the State Tax Administration of Ukraine (STAU) and the tax police, as well as the corresponding highest ranks which officials occupying these posts can attain. The Head of STAU has the rank of Chief State Advisor of the Tax Service, while his or her deputies hold the rank of State Advisor of the Tax Service class one, the directors of Departments of STAU - State Advisor of the Tax Service, class two.  The same class two rank is held by the Heads of STAU in the Autonomous Republic of the Crimea, Kyiv and in the 8 largest regions of Ukraine. The Heads of STAU in the remaining 17 regions have third class rank. The top rank for the Head of the tax police of Ukraine is that of Lieutenant-General of the tax police, the other highest-ranking heads of the tax police can aspire to the rank of Major-General. So what was the point of preventing access to this information?  What significant damage could possibly be caused the defence of State interests – national security, territorial indivisibility and public order, etc (see Article 34 of the Constitution) by making this information public?

Decree No. 277/2002 from 21 March 2002 was also amended by the Presidential Decrees No 345/2002 from 17.04.2002, No. 524/2002 from 06.06.2002, No. 811/2002 from 09.09.2002, No.1123/2002 from 02.12.2002, No. 1439/2004 from 30.11.2004, No.1452/2004 from 09.12.2004, No. 484/2005 from 17.03.2005, No. 1203/2005 from 23.08.2005, No. 1466/2005 from 19.10.2003. They all boast the stamp “Not to be printed” or “Not to be published”. It is logical to suppose that they relate to other Appendices to Decree No. 277/2002, and that all these acts concern ranks and salary of high-ranking officials of various State executive bodies. Hiding such information is entirely in keeping with the old Soviet habit of concealing their income, benefits and privileges from the population. Would it not be better for the President’s Secretariat to give up such habits, to put a stop to this shameful and illegal practice and make all documents with illegal stamps restricting access public?
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