Serious Risks in Parliament to Rollback Anti-corruption Reform
The Reanimation Package of Reforms is seriously concerned with continuous attempts of the Ukrainian political elite to rollback anticorruption achievements and calls on the state leaders to refrain from suspension of the anticorruption reform.
Over the past two years, Ukraine has achieved significant results in the implementation of the anticorruption reform.
Firstly, we have set up independent bodies to investigate high-profile corruption. The newly established National Anticorruption Bureau of Ukraine (NABU) and the Special Anticorruption Prosecutor’s Office (SAPO) are currently conducting more than 200 criminal investigations against senior officials, particularly against judges, prosecutors, top managers of large state-owned companies, and even MPs. Since February 2016, the new institutions have filed more than 30 criminal cases to the courts. During revolution of dignity we could only dream about politically impartial investigation against senior officials who are abusing power and embezzling public funds.
Secondly, first time since Ukraine’s independence public servants and senior politicians should make extensive information about their assets open. The first 50,000 senior officials have to submit public electronic declarations of assets by the end of October 2016; in 2017, declarations will have to be submitted by 1 million people, including officials of state-owned companies.
These achievements pose a threat to the corrupt political elite, which now risks to lose ill-gotten funds and to end up in prison. Therefore, recently a set of legislative initiatives emerged to weaken significantly asset declarations system and investigative powers of NABU.
Weakening Online Asset Declarations System
On September 29, 2016, I. Hryniv, head of the parliamentary faction of the Petro Poroshenko Bloc, introduced the draft law No. 5192 to the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, which denies public access to the key information in the officials’ declarations. The draft law closes information about cash savings, gifts, valuable movables, and financial liabilities of the officials. These are assets dishonest officials usually use to hide proceeds of corruption. Since September 1, 2016 when new online asset declaration system was launched this is already second attempt to amend the law on access to the information about the officials’ assets.
On September 6, 2016 MP T. Donets, member of “Narodnyi Front.” faction initiated draft law No. 5079, which suggests to close from public domain most information in the officials’ declarations and, in addition, to waive officials from obligation to declare property of their family members.
RPR finds such legislative initiatives detrimental and undermining the philosophy and goal of new online asset declarations system by creating loopholes for officials to hide assets of suspicious origin.
Finally, MP I.Hryniv announced intention to abolish criminal responsibility for the “mistakes” in the declarations. RPR treats such an intention as an attempt of authorities to let the officials legitimately “forget” to declare the excessive assets and to avoid any responsibility for that. We would like to warn political leadership from any attempts to limit criminal liability for illicit enrichment and false statements in asset declarations.
Weakening Investigative Powers of NABU while Strengthening Prosecution General powers
On September 8, 2016 MP V.Karpuntsov registered draft law No. 5097, which suggests granting exclusive authority to the Prosecutor General of Ukraine to settle the “cases on the investigative jurisdiction of the NABU.” We would like to stress that the very concept of “cases on the investigative jurisdiction” is manipulative, as investigative jurisdiction of the National Anticorruption Bureau of Ukraine is clearly determined by the Code of Criminal Procedure of Ukraine.
On September 23, 2016 Mr, Karpuntsov submitted draft law No. 5177, which suggests restoring the general supervision function of the prosecution, which annihilates the key achievement in this area – adoption of the new Law on Prosecution. It also jeopardizes establishment of the State Bureau of Investigation, the launch of which is being prepared by the Ukrainian expert community in cooperation with the international partners from the USA and the EU.
Finally, Yuriy Lutsenko, Prosecutor General of Ukraine, publicly declares intention to change the investigative jurisdiction of the National Anticorruption Bureau of Ukraine and to authorize other bodies to investigate high-profile corruption. Specifically, Lutsenko says, “If other law enforcement agencies have simultaneously traced the same officials (under the jurisdiction of NABU, – ed.), such cases may be further investigated by these agencies on the basis of the Prosecutor General’s decree. NABU has the right to demand that it should investigate these cases.”
Both, Artem Sytnyk, head of NABU, and Nazar Kholodnytskyi, head of SAPO stated that such kind of initiatives are unacceptable and are posing serious risks to the system of criminal investigation of grand corruption.
We would like to stress that the National Anticorruption Bureau of Ukraine has been established as a special body to investigate high-profile corruption in response to the lack of confidence in the traditional law enforcement bodies and the lack of results in their anticorruption activity. Over the ten months of its activity, NABU has filed more than 30 cases to court, while the Prosecutor General’s Office of Ukraine, the Security Service of Ukraine, and other bodies have not filed to court a single indictment regarding the crimes of the Yanukovych regime in the course of two years.
RPR believes that any attempt to empower other bodies to investigate crimes under the jurisdiction of NABU should be considered solely as an intentional obstruction of the Bureau’s activity and an attempt to protect corrupt officials from effective investigation and unavoidable responsibility.
RPR calls the Speaker of the Verkhovna Rada, the heads of the parliamentary factions, and the President of Ukraine to refrain from adoption of abovementioned dangerous legislative initiatives.
Weakening asset declarations system and powers of NABU/SAPO seriously contradicts anti-corruption commitments Ukrainian government officially gave to the Western partners, specifically to the EU and IMF. Therefore RPR calls Western partners to closely monitor implementation of these commitments.
The draft law #5192 authored by I. Hryniv on denying access to the information on the assets of the officials was registered in the Parliament two weeks after receiving the IMF tranche, three days after the positive decision of the European Parliament Committee on granting Ukraine a visa-free regime, and the next day after receiving US loan guarantees.
RPR notes, that a fully functional launch of the electronic declaration system was one of the key conditions from IMF to Ukraine for granting financial assistance in September this year.
The launch of e-declaration of public officials’ assets is one of Ukraine’s commitments under the Visa Liberalization Action Plan with the European Union. According to the State Building Contract between Ukraine and the EU, Ukraine had to establish strict responsibility for the provision of false information in the declarations.
RPR would like to note high efficiency of the Visa Liberalization Action Plan and the terms of cooperation between Ukraine and the IMF as a tool to promote key reforms in Ukraine, through which considerable progress was achieved in the following areas:
– Creation of a system of independent anticorruption agencies – the National Anticorruption Bureau of Ukraine and the Special Anticorruption Prosecutor’s office, whose activities are aimed at eradicating political corruption of senior government officials;
– Prevention of corruption through the establishment of the National Agency on Corruption Prevention and the launch of e-declaration of the officials’ income and assets;
– Development of the legal framework for the special confiscation of property and in other areas in line with the European standards.