Vital anti-corruption legislation passes first hurdle
Draft laws aimed at creating an independent anti-corruption bureau, transparent funding of election campaigns and other measures vital for really fighting corruption in Ukraine were passed at their first reading on Tuesday. They could be adopted in full on Oct 14. The previous attempt to get them through a month ago failed, however each of the bills was adopted this time with a fairly comfortable majority.
Ukraine’s economy is in a catastrophic state and anti-corruption legislation is needed for the IMF to hand over the next stage of the loan package from the IMF, World Bank and EU. It is, of course, vital in itself and had there been proper mechanisms in place, it would have been much harder for previous administrations to plunder the country.
The draft laws have been drawn up with the cooperation of Transparency International in Ukraine and other civic organizations. In advance of the vote in the Verkhovna Rada, Transparency International issued a call on parliamentarians to support laws “that would create a strong framework for tackling the systemic corruption that has crippled social well-being and economic growth in Ukraine”.
There were five bills in total.
On the basic principles of state anti-corruption policy in Ukraine for 2014-2017 (№5085);
President Poroshenko’s bill on a system of specially authorized anti-corruption bodies;
On fighting corruption;
On amendments to some legislative acts identifying the final benefiting legal entities and individuals;
On amendments to the Criminal and Criminal-Procedure Codes on inevitability of punishment for crimes endangering national security, public safety and corruption.
State anti-corruption bureau
This move, long demanded by Ukrainian NGOs and international bodies, has consistently been stalled in the past. The creation of such a body is envisaged in draft bill No. 5085 on basic principles of anti-corruption strategy 2014-2017, as well as in the presidential bill. Both received comfortable majorities, and MPs also supported a decision to adopt them in full next week.
The Bureau “will have investigatory powers and, according to Prime Minister Arseny Yatsenyuk will fight corruption “not among low-level officials, but in the first instance among high-ranking officials of the first to third categories – prime ministers, ministers, deputies, heads of regional administrations, all who have power”. It will also be able to carry out initial investigations into suspected corrupt dealings of judges and prosecutors.
Not just in Ukraine
There is also a law which will make it possible to try people suspected of corruption even if they are not in Ukraine. Transparency International points out that “it is the absence of this law that has made it impossible to prosecute and seek the return of assets stolen by former Ukrainian president Victor Yanukovych who fled the country to Russia.”
There are a number of other important measures, including mechanisms for ensuring transparency of funding for elections, the activity of political parties, and for eliminating corruption factors in electoral bodies, and strengthening public control over their work.
If these are passed next week, it will be a major step forward. How effective they will prove depends on a number of factors, primarily the mechanisms of control over their implementation. For a number of years now the requirement that public officials declare their earnings, property etc. has been a rather farcical pretence with politicians or judges sporting watches, or driving cars, costing many times the declared yearly income.