On July 26, integrity interviews came to an end with candidates for the head and first deputy of the Specialized Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office. Out of the 37 candidates, only two reached the transitional finish line.
Andrii Syniuk and Oleksandr Klymenko are the two “lucky men” who were unanimously recognized by the commission as sufficiently virtuous.
Senior detective of the National Anti-Corruption Bureau Oleksandr Klymenko has more than 10 years of professional experience, half of which he works in NABU.
Andrii Syniuk is a prosecutor of the Prosecutor General’s Office. In general, he worked in the prosecutor’s office all his professional life, that is, for more than 10 years. This, according to Syniuk, is his “history of fighting crime and fighting for justice.”
Now Klymenko has 212 points after being tested for general and professional abilities, while Syniuk — 195 points. There is still a practical task and an interview on professional competence ahead.
The situation is, to put it mildly, strange. Considering the legislation and procedure of the competition, Syniuk and Klymenko are already the new leadership of the Specialized Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office. The question is who will head the institution according to the results of the competition, and who will become the first deputy. Another option is if one of them refuses to participate in the competition. It is difficult to predict what to do then.
Considering the legislation and procedure of the competition, Syniuk and Klymenko are already the new leadership of the Specialized Anti- Corruption Prosecutor's Office.
What are the risks of this situation?
First, reputational ones. How much can Ukrainians trust the chief anti-corruption prosecutor if, in fact, the last two stages of the competition are a formality?
Secondly, if one of the positions (or both) remain vacant, there will be a need for a new competition. This, in turn, will entail some new threats:
- Political bias of the commission members. The majority of the commission members — seven — were delegated by the Verkhovna Rada under the law. Four more were delegated by the Council of Prosecutors. This time, the Council of Prosecutors was represented by international experts, which, of course, was very good. However, in many situations, there was still a “slant” from logic and ethics to private political interests, and this, of course, is not about international experts. In other words, there are now questions about the independence of the commission members elected under the parliamentary quota. What will happen in the new commission, when, presumably, international specialists will not be allowed there or will simply refuse to participate?
- The newly created commission each time forms its own working procedure and methodology for evaluating candidates. Therefore, these documents can be written in such a way that they will not allow making decisions as objectively and independently as possible.
- Once again, it will be more difficult to gather professional and virtuous candidates. A large number of relevant motivated candidates tried their hand at the competition and did not make it to the final stages. Therefore, it is difficult to imagine which of them will potentially decide to take such a step again. Will there be new brave-hearts, given that the previous competition was so long and difficult?
- Further delaying the process of selecting the head and deputy of the SAPO is advantageous for certain power “elites.” The acting head of the Specialized Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office has only a limited range of powers compared to an actual head. Therefore, Prosecutor General Venediktova continues making many procedural and administrative decisions.
- In the near future, a number of competitions for various top-level positions should start. We are talking about the leadership of the Anti-Corruption Bureau, the Asset Recovery and Management Agency, and the Bureau of Economic Security. There is also the matter of judicial reform with the restart of the High Qualification Commission of Judges and the High Council of Justice. This will require a significant resource— professional members and candidates, and the selection process itself needs to be transparent, competitive, and within the framework of the law. It will be impossible to keep the focus and fight on all fronts at the same time.
How much can Ukrainians trust the chief anti-corruption prosecutor if, in fact, the last two stages of the competition are a formality?
How to avoid this in the future?
In order for the next competition for the head of the SAPO to take place properly, we must work on mistakes and make changes to the legislation. This is obvious.
- First of all, members of the selection commission should be as independent, apolitical, professional, and virtuous as possible. 7 members of the commission are delegated by the Parliament. In our case, they were chosen from the third attempt, and still not all of them met the legal requirements.
There are already proven competitive selection procedures that have showed themselves well and even formed the basis of new legislative acts, for example, the competitive selection of the NACP head, the HACC judges; the procedure is laid down in the new judicial reform.
- You cannot leave the institution in a vulnerable state while there is a competition for the position of head. Accordingly, there is a need to equate the procedural powers of the acting head of the SAPO with an actual head because this will help protect the institution from external influences. Experience shows that the selection process can take a long time. Just as long, the Prosecutor General’s Office can and does influence the work of the SAPO, actually undermining the continuity and capacity of the anti-corruption ecosystem.
The chief anti-corruption prosecutor is a key position in the entire field. Its decisions directly affect the level of top corruption in the country and the inevitability of punishment for it.
Are we ready to make efforts to ensure that both the competition for the head of the SAPO and their further work meet high standards? We’ll find out very soon.
In order for the next competition for the head of the SAPO to take place properly, we must work on mistakes and make changes to the legislation.