New Anti-corruption Law comes into force
On 1 July 2011 the Law on the Basic Principles for Preventing and Countering Corruption came into force. Analysts believe that aside from some undoubtedly positive elements, there are also failings, with the pluses and minuses fairly closely intertwined. The Law also makes the President the main person responsible for anti-corruption policy in the country.
The new law extends the range of those who can be held liable for corruption offences. This is first and foremost public officials, including the top people in the country: the President, Prime Minister and Speaker of the Verkhovna Rada. The Law also regulates procedure for holding people liable. Many corruption offences previously classified as administrative have now been criminalized. This means sentences from 2 to 15 years imprisonment.
There is also a norm defining conflict of interests in the civil service and the procedure for its being regulated.
The norm obliging public servants to declare not only their income, but also their outgoings has been to a large extent emasculated by parliamentarians in the new law.
Oleksy Khmara, Head of TORO, Transparency International’s partner in Ukraine, explains that at first the amount involved for a single purchase was two times their average salary, but after consideration in parliamentary committees, this became 50 thousand UAH. Then after heated debate the amount was increased to 150 thousand UAH. He considers the arguments used, that a normal plasma television can’t be bought for less than 40 thousand.
Oleksy Khmara points out that as a rule in European countries a purchase equalling the average monthly salary is declared. In money terms, where in Europe the amount is 5 thousand euro, in Ukraine it is now around 15 thousand euro. This causes the paradoxical situation where one of the poorest countries in Europe has one of the highest thresholds for declaring outgoings.
As reported, the package of anti-corruption laws submitted by President Yushchenko were passed back in 2009, only to be deferred three times and then finally cancelled after President Yanukovych submitted a new version.
According to Yury Yakymenko from the Razumkov Centre this drawn out process says a lot, making it clear that the law impinges on the interests of those who deferred it. They saw it as threatening them.
Oleksy Khmaa notes that the procrastination has not led to the law being improved. He points out also that responsibility for anti-corruption policy is now firmly with the President.
“Everything ends with him. He draws up anti-corruption strategy, creates a special body to coordinate anti-corruption activities, appoints procedure for checking candidates for the public service”.
Both experts are most doubtful about how in practice the new legislation will be implemented. According to the law a special body should oversee its implementation, yet this is only to be created next year, and the State Budget this year does not envisage its upkeep. For the moment its functions will be carried out by the Ministry of Justice and the SBU [Security Service].
According to last year’s figures from Transparency Internation, Ukraine is in 134th place according to their corruption index. The least corrupt was found to be Denmark, the most – Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan.