War against Corruption lost from the outset
On 28 November the Cabinet of Ministers approved the State Programme on Preventing and Countering Corruption for 2011-2015. Oleh Yeltsov, Editor of the website TEMA decided to study it and was unimpressed. He suggests that the document shows all the signs of having been written by officials needing to get somebody off their back and knowing they’re not likely to hold their jobs until 2015 when they’d have to answer for the programme. He believes the war has been lost already.
Over four years the amount allocated is 820 million UAH [1 EUR = roughly 10.5 UAH]. The author says that people’s view of whether this is a lot or very little may vary, but points out that funding for the vast majority of measures is not envisaged at all. In times of crisis, he says, the Cabinet of Ministers thinks money should be spent on the most important things, and clearly does not think fighting corruption falls into that category.
The Health Ministry however should be pleased since of the 820 million UAH, that Ministry will receive 803.5 million. Perhaps, he suggests, given this lion’s share of the funding, the Health Ministry should become the body answering in the interim for carrying out the anti-corruption programme, and not the Justice Ministry.
“It’s extremely odd yet for some reason the Cabinet of Ministers and the Justice Ministry which prepared the Programme in coordination with other ministries consider the main element in overcoming corruption in the country to be organizing an electronic record of medical forms (medical certificates”. This, after all, has been allocated the 803.5 million UAH over four years, the lion’s share of the anti-corruption budget.
To be fair, however, he mentions that the money is not only for organizing issue of medical certificates. The general item concerning the major part of the anti-corruption legislation is in Section 1 (Reform of the system of State administration and administrative procedures. “2. Use of innovative technologies which increase the level of objectivity and transparency of decisions taken by bodies of power, including acceleration of the introduction of a system for electronic document circulation and electronic signatures at national and local level”.
What is not clear, the author says, is what this has to do with the Health Ministry. Everybody knows that the key player in fighting corruption is the Ministry for Economic Development. Perhaps there is a task involved here of creating an electronic queue, and this is of major importance for the Health Ministry whose establishments have monumental queues. Nonetheless, this needs to be organized and implemented by the Committee for State Automation of Information, as well, in fact, as the rest of the measures of this item of the programme which has eaten up most of the anti-corruption funding.
“How did they dare to entrust all of that to a structure which against a background of permanently changing ministers has buried once and for all its “profile”, - medicine, with numerous lobbyists of pharmaceutical companies, and corrupt dealers making money from procurement of medicines flourishing, together with siphoning off public funding? The Health Ministry will no doubt successfully rip through those 800 million or so UAH, but what relation does that bear to countering corruption? More likely to strengthening and supporting it”.
The author suggests that he could end his analysis at this point, but says that instead he’ll follow the document to the end in order to make one extremely important conclusion.
Section IV is about improving conditions for access by individuals, legal entities and civic organizations which don’t have legal entity status to information about the activities of state bodies and bodies of local self-government. It is planned to strengthen the role of the public “in the formation and registration of State policy”. What such registration of State policy means nobody knows, yet just about every state body and ministry seems to be drawn into the process of improving legislation, just not the public. The author says that it is easy to guess what these “improvements” will come out like when introduced by those officials in order to enhance the public’s scrutiny over them!
The author is generally scathing with regard to the general professional level of those who drew up the Programme – in places somewhat controversially. For example, he objects to Section X which envisages a system of professional training for judges, those aspiring to become judges, as well as police and prosecutor staff regarding application of anti-corruption legislation, which he considers excessive. It is needed, he asserts, only by those directly involved in fighting corruption. Since, he says, judges, prosecutors and the police are the most notorious for corruption, will these courses not be teaching them how to avoid arrest?
Section XIII “Reduction of the level of corruption in the private sector” mainly boils down to educational and propaganda programmes with no practical measures even mentioned for fighting corruption in this area.
“However the authors did not forget what would appeal to the public and get them praise from the international community. We read in Section XV. Activation of international cooperation on prevention and countering corruption: Item 4. Formation of Ukraine’s image as a country that is actively countering manifestations of corruption and receive international support for these activities. Let’s be specific – are we countering corruption or forming the image of the regime fighting corruption? Perhaps we should be spending money on the struggle, not on a whistle? “
The author’s main conclusion is that nobody is planning to fight corruption in the country.
The longer article of which this is a summary was written as part of the Kharkiv Human Rights Group’s journalist investigations programme with the support of the International Renaissance Foundation.