A couple of days ago, mayor Trukhanov was once again served with charges by the NABU and the SAPO because of his wife’s property. This is now the third time in his record that it happens. But Trukhanov has only one court decision about him, and even that’s an acquittal. Whose fail was that?

Today is the NABU’s “birthday.” Five years ago, the President appointed Artem Sytnyk as the Director of the Bureau, thus launching the work of the institution.

During this time, detectives and prosecutors have showed how much trashy corruption and arrogant corrupt officials we actually have. They have proven that they can come to just about anyone and treat them equally at the court hearing.

We were happy about things the NABU was talking about at first. During the first ten months of the Bureau’s work, the NABU and the SAPO were already investigating 208 proceedings, served about 100 people with charges and indicted 25 people. It seemed to be a good start. 

Now, the NABU is reporting that in five years (as of December 31, 2019), together with SAPO, they served 221 people with charges and sent 245 indictments to courts. Judges made verdicts on 38 of their cases. Thus, only 17% of cases ended in actual court decisions.

Some questions naturally arise: has the Anti-Corruption Bureau done enough in its first five years of operation? Could they have done something better? Can we assess the NABU’s effectiveness without taking the SAPO into consideration? Or without the High Anti-Corruption Court?

And to the main question: is the number of officials who are in jail the only sign of anti-corruption success?

In five years, the NABU went through a lot of things. From Nasirov’s nighttime court hearing to termination of a multi-million agreement. And that’s without political support, the right to independent wiretapping, access to a lot of registers and issues with forensic reviews, but with plenty of pressure and resistance instead. 

On the other side of the scale, though, we saw a lot of disasters, both with cases and with decisions at various levels. The cases of Ukroboronprom, the tapes from Kyiv Administrative Court, the leaks of conversations… even the most ardent advocates were forced to take up the function of neutral watchdogs, if not critics yet.

I have said this multiple times. The question of putting public officials in jail is an issue of the system overall, not to individual institutions. There are too few systemic changes that have become irrevocable. The fact that certain reforms remained on paper has also affected the NABU’s effectiveness.

Admittedly, the NABU is the driver of investigations, the SAPO is the driver at court hearings. Judges make decisions based on the standards of criminal procedural legislation. The number and the content of the decisions depends on all of them.

The NABU and the SAPO are not “new” or “young” anymore. Five years is enough time for an agency to gain enough experience. And plenty of time for Ukrainians to grow impatient.

Most Ukrainians don’t care about high-flown lines like observing the rule of law or independent supervisory agencies. The majority doesn’t think about forming a negative attitude to abuse of public funds or power of office. But those things are precisely what works in countries with a low level of corruption. Fighting corruption is not just about punishment. 

In Ukraine, 83% of people think that the fight against public corruption is unsuccessful. Why? Because “thieves” are not “put in jail.” The Ukrainian mentality will not accept the fight against corruption until “justice” is done, which means that the guilty go to jail and lose their money. 

Time to draw some conclusions and change.

In Ukraine, 83% of people think that the fight against public corruption is unsuccessful. Why? Because “thieves” are not “put in jail.”

Andrii Borovyk, ED, Transparency International Ukraine