Recently, there has been a lot of talk in the media and among some government officials about reforming the Asset Recovery and Management Agency (ARMA), stating that since it is inefficient, it should be “liquidated,” and the property under the management of the agency should be transferred, for example, to the SPFU. Such initiatives are said to be supported in the Presidential Office (and maybe this is even where they come from, but there is no 100% certainty).
Let me remind you that Transparency International Ukraine, almost from the beginning of the creation of the ARMA, tracks its work and provides professional expertise on many issues. Therefore, we can confidently state that in addition to corruption scandals and doubts about the effectiveness of the Agency, numerous issues in the management of seized assets are related to the quality of legislation, as well as the institutional stability of the body.
- Planning before the transfer of property to the ARMA is not provided for in the legislation of Ukraine. And often, these procedures take place carelessly, and sometimes they do not take place at all.
- There is no procedure for competitive determination of the manager of assets transferred to the ARMA. Therefore, for a long time, such assets remain “abandoned.”
- The sale of seized assets is not transparent and contains possibilities for abuse. We see this in numerous cases that are now being considered by the Anti-Corruption Court.
- The manager of corporate rights is obliged to coordinate their actions with the owner of such assets. This is strange because the owners are usually involved in cases where this property was seized.
- Actions on the organization of asset management can be blocked through the decisions of administrative and economic courts on securing claims. That is, administrative courts directly interfere in the criminal process, which is nonsense in a normal legal society.
- Control over the quality of asset management is fragmented and requires an increase in the level of expertise.
- The Unified State Register of Assets Seized in Criminal Proceedings has only recently begun to operate and is not public, and neither does it contain information about property managers. That is, it is almost impossible to track who manages these assets and, overall, the details of each of the “high-profile” ones.
- The head of the ARMA has not been elected for more than three years. And this is savage because how can an institution function normally without full-fledged leadership? And the current acting head has actually almost no rights. By the way, we have not seen much political will regarding this matter all these years.
All these issues will be relevant for another body that will manage the seized assets instead of the ARMA if such a decision is made. But besides this, there will be many other problems, the solution of which can also take years and tens of millions of hryvnias. Moreover, there is a high probability that the already slow and barely noticeable progress in asset management can stop while the reform is being implemented.
So, is it worth reforming this sphere, transferring the functions of the existing body, which was created from scratch and whose development required considerable resources, including financial assistance from our international partners, to someone else? Why is it not possible to finally improve the activities of the Agency comprehensively and systematically, especially since everyone has long been well aware of what should be changed and how? The questions are rhetorical.