In March, the Group of States against Corruption published a report based on monitoring of Ukraine’s anti-corruption progress.
For a too long, didn’t read version: we have fully implemented 5 recommendations out of 31. Currently, our government seems to be unable to ensure full implementation of anti-corruption practices.
What is the GRECO and why should we care about its report?
The GRECO exists since 1999, and Ukraine joined it in 2006. The main mission of the initiative is to increase the capacity of its members to fight against corruption.
How does it do it? Through monitoring of governments’ compliance with the anti-corruption standards of the Council of Europe and other international initiatives. This monitoring helps to find gaps in the legislation, anti-corruption policies or their practical implementation. Later, “corrections” are made through advocacy, including through the IMF, the EU and other institutions and structures that have financial leverage.
In Ukraine, the liaison agency for the GRECO is the National Agency for Corruption Prevention.
Now to this year’s report.
In March, the results of the fourth round of Ukraine’s monitoring were published. They were approved at a GRECO meeting on December 2-6, 2019. The recommendations were made back in 2017, while the analysis focused on corruption prevention concerning MPs, judges and prosecutors. The primary things that were taken into account include ethical principles and code of conduct, conflict of interest, restriction of certain activity, asset declarations and commitments.
This time, Ukraine has fully implemented 5 recommendations out of 31, partly implemented 15 and has not at all implemented 11.
The first section of the recommendations was about the NACP’s work and its independence.
In its recommendations concerning our country’s score in the Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI), TI Ukraine has reiterated numerous times that the previous NACP leadership was politically dependent and its structure inefficient. Last year, a new law was passed, changing the management structure, and on January 15, a new Head of the Agency was appointed.
In the future, GRECO believes, we need to focus on lifestyle monitoring for public officials, which is yet to be implemented in Ukraine.
Another important recommendation is the creation and work of the Public Council under the NACP. This agency will be tasked with analysis of the NACP’s independence and efficiency. It will also play a role in the development of the anti-corruption strategy and draft regulatory acts.
Another recommendation of the GRECO is about the Parliament’s work: a high level of transparency and engagement, including work in committees. Transparency International recommended the same to improve Ukraine’s CPI score.
While the work of the Parliament can be called transparent enough, there is no procedure of consulting the civil society yet in place, even though there was an option for civil society representatives to attend committee meetings.
The report also mentions the so-called turbo mode of the new parliament in what concerns the adoption of draft laws. Was it really appropriate in all the cases? The GRECO doesn’t think so, and we (Transparency International Ukraine) can’t help but agree. It was also mentioned in the monitoring that the draft law No. 1008 On Amendments to Certain Laws of Ukraine Concerning Activity of Judicial Self-Government Agencies was subjected to a quick procedure without being discussed and explained properly, as well as without involving all the stakeholders and civic consultancies.
TI Ukraine agrees with this conclusion. This law does not foresee the reboot of the Supreme Council of Justice, and the Rada itself makes a range of concluding decisions. Neither does the document foresee engaging public representatives in updating judicial self-governing agencies.
There are also some recommendations that haven’t been fulfilled at all or have been but only partially that concern MPs’ performance, the necessity of adoption and abidance by the code of ethics, the regulation of their business activity, the interaction with lobbyists, and the internal mechanisms enforcement to control decency. This means there is a lot work to do.
We are really interested in the recommendation 11, in which Ukraine is advised to take clear and efficient measures by which abolishment of MP’s immunity will not hinder criminal prosecution of those MPs, suspected in committing corruption crimes.
Because of the constitutional changes adopted, which lift MPs’ immunity, the GRECO assessed this recommendation as fulfilled in a satisfactory manner. But we must remind you that the GRECO’s session took place on 2-6 December, and on 18th of the same month the Parliament didn’t pay attention to the public voice and adopted a highly imperfect law on the abolishment of immunity.
Looking back on what happened in March, one cannot but take into consideration the GRECO’s recommendation in which the procedure of appointment and dismissal of the Attorney General is advised to be overviewed to make this process more “influence-proof” politically and let it focus more on the objective criteria as to the candidates’ professional skills. Even though, according to the assessment, the recommendation is fulfilled satisfactorily, we have witnessed what happened in practice: Ruslan Riaboshapka, Attorney General was removed from office without any solid reasons, being replaced by Iryna Venediktova, whose incompetence is well-known among those who used to work with her.
As we see, a lot of anti-corruption draft laws were adopted last year. However, all of these laws have to be implemented practically, that’s where problems may arise.
The GRECO gives the Ukrainian government 18 months to properly fulfill the recommendations and expects additional information before June 30, 2021. Given that in the time of COVID-10 pandemic and economic crisis, the authorities may postpone the matter of fighting corruption or make such steps in a rather declarative manner instead of taking real action, the results awaiting Ukraine in the next report are very difficult to predict.
Publication prepared with Anastasiya Kozlovtseva and Viktoriia Karpinska.