We had been waiting for it for a long time, and finally, on January 15, the Cabinet of Ministers appointed Oleksandr Novikov as the Head of the National Agency for Corruption Prevention.
As much as we want to sign in relief, we all understand very well that it’s just the beginning, and it’s hard to say where this appointment will take us.
After his appointment, Oleksandr Novikov is supposed to become one of the driving powers in corruption prevention in Ukraine. It is he who will account for upgrading the procedure of electronic declarations’ verification, development of the anti-corruption strategy and verification of political parties’ reporting. Of course, all of this will require special oversight measures.
In his turn, Head of NACP Novikov said, “The role of the NACP is to render holding public office impossible for individuals who engage in corrupt practices and illicit enrichment in their work. The main thing is to form zero tolerance to corrupt practices in public service.”
During the recruitment process, my colleagues and I spoke quite a lot about the challenges that would be faced by the future leader of the NACP and explained how the Agency’s work would be different after its reboot.
Journalists and the public would often be skeptical about this: “What if this new head turns out ineffective in his work again?”
As a member of the Selection Board, I was interested in this question, too. Especially given that Ukrainians have good reason to distrust public institutions and officials.
That’s why even before the competition started, we insisted that the candidates should publish as many documents as possible and all interviews should be broadcast live. We also asked the public to share information about the candidates with us, whether anonymously or publicly. It worked. And even at the interview we simply asked the candidates all the questions, so everyone could see and hear what they said.
We tried to choose the person with the greatest potential. But it’s hard to predict the outcome.
Clear response to the question “what safeguards are there to prevent abuse of power?” is provided by the law.
Alongside the guarantees of the NACP Head’s independence there are also specific ways to control his activity.
The Law of Ukraine “On Corruption Prevention” stipulates several means of oversight of the Head of the NACP.
- First, once in two years, the Accounting Chamber is supposed to perform special audit of all Agency’s financial operations. They include payment of NACP staff and other expenditures of the Agency.
- The second means of oversight is through the Public Council. It will analyze the situation with independence and effectiveness of the Agency’s work and participate in development of the anti-corruption strategy and draft regulatory acts.
- The third type of oversight is external audit which is also supposed to be held once in two years. The members of the commission performing this audit should be the representatives of Ukraine’s international partners appointed by the Cabinet of Ministers.
As with the ways of oversight, the law stipulates when the powers of the Head of the NACP are terminated:
- appointment or election for a different office
- loss of ability to work due to health concerns
- reaching the age of 65
- court decision on the individual’s lack of legal capacity or a guilty verdict concerning the individual;
- termination of the Ukrainian citizenship;
- conclusion of the independent audit on ineffective activity.
The last point is probably the most interesting one for us, since it shows how important it is for the Agency and its Head to do well and demonstrate good results for independent verification. This extra motivation should work.
As you see, in theory, there is a system of checks and balances.
The lawmakers provided enough options to oversee the Head’s work.
We can only hope that the new Head of the Agency will be able to make good use of his independence, and the public will make good use of the means of oversight.
Kateryna Ryzhenko, specially for Ukrainska Pravda