Strictly confidential corruption
All roads lead to corruption...
In an interview to Uryadovy Kuryer, Justice Minister Oleksandr Lavrynovych has defended the secret nature of the Unified State Register of Persons Guilty of Corruption Offences. He asserts that the secrecy is demanded by the Personal Data Protection Act, but says that even without that law, he would be against the Register being on open access.
“No country has such open information. We have a register of court rulings and that is open. However general access to the texts of court rulings is provided only on condition that information is not divulged which would make it possible to identify an individual. You won’t find any surnames there.
The Unified State Register of Persons Guilty of Corruption Offences is by its legal nature a personal database and therefore falls under the Personal Data Protection Act. This envisages that personal data is on restricted access. However, even if there was no such law, I consider that such data could not be divulged”.
Lavrynovych goes on to tell a story of how as an MP an account of a District Administration came up to him and said that she had had an act issued against over for corruption because she had not submitted a declaration on time. Just imagine, he says, how she, her children, her grandchildren would suffer if such information became public knowledge. He suggests that this would be like the boards known as Komsomol Projectors in Soviet times with photographs under a sign saying “Shame to those who christened their children”.
Such publicity, he claims, is not only without purpose, but also against the norms of law and humane treatment of people who have at some stage overstepped the law.
Not quite, Minister
Mr Lavrynovych forgets to mention that this “open” register of court rulings is by no means comprehensive. In 2011 President Yanukovych ignored numerous calls to use his power of veto and signed into force a law which negated the very principle of a Single Register of Court Rulings by effectively making it possible for judges – via the Council of Judges, after agreement with the State Judicial Administration, to decide which rulings shall be made public to the public.
This is no small thing in a country where the critically low level of confidence in the judiciary has not appeared out of thin air.
With regard to corruption, Ukraine is now in 144th place out of 176 countries on the Transparency International Corruption Perception Index, with a score of 26 out of 100. Last year’s result was 27 so Ukraine is moving backwards on the corruption front.
Oleksy Khmara, Transparency International’s representative in Ukraine, has pointed out that Štefan Füle, European Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy, during his visit to Kyiv in early February, drew up a list of checking points for Ukraine’s readiness to sign the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement. The list provides for monitoring of the strength and efficacy of Ukraine’s campaign against corruption.
The Cabinet of Ministers apparently made much of their commitment to fighting corruption, yet was able to come up with only one point, this being support for a draft law which would add clauses on bribery to the Criminal Code.
If one assumes that a programme has more than declarative force, then there effectively is no anti-corruption programme.
The National Anti-Corruption Committee has done nothing, and its sole member from NGOs, Oleksy Khmara, left it last year in protest over Yanukovych’s signing of a law which removed State enterprises from tender procedure.
There is no liability for officials who fail to disclose all their assets (or in other ways lie) on their income declarations, and no way of checking. And who is on the Unified State Register of Persons Guilty of Corruption Offences and why they’re there is confidential information.
It is undoubtedly the case that the Register falls within the scope of the Data Protection Act however the latter was one of the many laws condemned by civic organizations back in 2010, among other things for its failure to differentiate between information which indeed identifies a person and that which can be considered sensitive data.
Where public officials are engaging in corrupt activities, the public surely have the right to know. No wonder therefore that Transparency International stresses the need for changes to the Personal Data Protection Act so that this Register can be made open to the public.
Its existence is otherwise entirely meaningless.