A record amount was spent to celebrate Independence Day in 2021— at least UAH 240 mln. More than UAH 40 mln of this money was allocated for the production of various kinds of video products: filming of celebrations, videos about the history of independence and documentary series about the celebration of the 2021 Independence Day. The latter cost the budget almost UAH 10 mln. 

The production of this series, like most procurement transactions for Independence Day, was purchased without a competition — according to the negotiation procedure because the Verkhovna Rada allowed to do so. However, such procurement is still reported to Prozorro, so we can see what and how much money was spent on, and who received the contract.

The Light Communication company received UAH 9.8 mln from SE Center for the Protection of the Information Space of Ukraine. With these funds, it committed to produce 26 60-second game videos, a 90-second game video, and a 26-minute documentary by the end of the year. The series should portray the Independence Day of Ukraine as a festive day of the whole nation, focusing on the concept of unity, the long-term civilizational development of the Ukrainian people, and our statehood, as well as the historical process of restoring Independence.

Film by the Presidential Office

At the end of September, the main TV channels of Ukraine showed a film about this-year’s Independence Day celebration. The video did not contain any information about producers. However, its running time of 55 min was very close to the total running time of the video products, that the Center for the Protection of the Information Space of Ukraine ordered with Light Communication (53 min 30 s). Therefore, we assumed that this may be precisely the product that was purchased during the summer procurement.

However, the Presidential Office quickly explained to Babel that this film was made without attracting public funds. Its producer was the main director of Goodmedia production, Andrii Nesterenko. He is also the director of the current Independence Day parade in the capital.

Is this really the case?

Responding to an official request by Transparency International Ukraine, the Presidential Office provided slightly different information. The letter stated that the special project, precisely what the PO calls the film “30 Years of Independence. Behind the Scenes,” was created by employees of the press service of the PO with the engagement of several companies and creative groups who were directly involved in preparing several events to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Ukraine’s Independence.

We tried to find out what kind of companies and creative groups these were: we asked to provide their EDRPOU codes and procurement codes, if their services were purchased for budget funds. The PO responded that companies and creative groups worked for free, so there was no procurement. The request to provide their EDRPOU codes was ignored. 

TV series for almost UAH 10 mln

What about the video materials for UAH 9.8 mln from the state budget, the production of which was purchased in the summer? If it’s not a movie by the Presidential Office, where and when will we be able to watch them?

We directed these questions to the procuring entity of services for the series production — SE Center for the Protection of the Information Space of Ukraine. However, the SE responded that it wouldn’t be them who would publish these materials, so, they couldn’t provide information about when and where to see them.

We did not stop there and asked them to provide the EDRPOU codes of the institution to which these videos would be transferred when they were ready, or just the institution that would be responsible for publishing them. If the videos have already been made public, we asked to provide a link to them, or provide the EDRPOU code of the company that has them on its balance sheet.

Responding to this request, we were informed that the requested information is confidential because it concerns the company’s business plans. 

What do we plan to do about it

The Presidential Office basically did not respond to our request as the law requires. We can’t verify the information about these services because we don’t know the EDRPOU codes or company names. 

The information that we requested from the Center for the Protection of the Information Space of Ukraine cannot be considered confidential for several reasons. First, access to information related to budget funds should not be restricted. According to the contract, the series will be paid for at the expense of the state budget. Moreover, data on the activity of state-owned enterprises should not be restricted. And in general, if the public benefit of disclosure is greater than the harm that it can cause, there is no reason not to do so. Therefore, the state-owned enterprise should at least check the request using all the necessary criteria, which, judging by the response, it failed to do.

Therefore, now we will appeal not just to the PO and the Center for the Protection of the Information Space of Ukraine, but also to the Commissioner for Human Rights. We still want to find out who created “30 Years of Independence. Behind the Scenes,” and where we can get acquainted with the documentary series about the celebration of Independence Day for UAH 9.8 mln. 

All our requests and answers can be found at the link.

Source: dozorro.org