The end of 2020. The Pechersk District Court of Kyiv takes the case against Tatarov from the NABU and the SAPO, based on pseudo-legal grounds. The SAPO prosecutors filed complaints against this decision to the Appeal Chamber of the High Anti-Corruption Court. At the same time, the Prosecutor General’s Office decided to appeal the decision of the Pechersk District Court of Kyiv. And instead of using the rules of the Criminal Procedural Code, they appealed to the Kyiv Court of Appeal. This looks like an aid to the rival team—actually cementing the harmful practice of appealing the jurisdiction of the NABU-SAPO cases in courts of general jurisdiction.
This is just one of a series of episodes that demonstrates how important the role of the Head of the Specialized Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office is and how many people want to influence the processes in this scope.
Since August 2020, when the Head of the SAPO, Nazar Kholodnytskyi, wrote a letter of resignation, the Prosecutor’s Office has had no full-fledged leadership, only an acting head with limited powers—Maksym Hryshchuk.
During this time, we have seen a number of attempts to influence high-profile investigations, to put pressure on detectives and prosecutors. And all because the actual Head of the Prosecutor’s Office cannot fully perform his duties—the legislation has given part of his powers to the Prosecutor General, Ms. Venediktova. She repeatedly interfered in the NABU-SAPO investigations, questioning any independence of these institutions. The cases of Maksym Mykytas, Oleh Tatarov and Oleksandr Yurchenko are good examples of influencing the investigation.
Watching the endless stream of treacherous news, you feel the low motivation of our authorities to change such a convenient situation. As a result, we have a long and in some places contradictory process of forming the Selection Commission. MPs were able to appoint their representatives in the commission only on the third attempt. And some of those elected ones from the Parliament do not meet the requirements of the legislation and have no proven experience in anti-corruption activities.
Now we have at least some progress — the commission consisting of 4 representatives from the Council of Prosecutors of Ukraine and 7 representatives from the Verkhovna Rada. On January 25, 2021, the competition and acceptance of documents for 3 administrative positions were finally announced:
- The Head of the Specialized Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office;
- The Deputy Head of the Specialized Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office;
- The department head of the Specialized Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office.
Who are they looking for?
Those who want to be the Head of the Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office have a little more time—they can collect and submit documents by February 15. The requirements for candidates are quite realistic and actually apply to all SAPO prosecutors:
- law degree;
- work experience in the field of law for at least 5 years;
- knowledge of the state language;
- citizenship of Ukraine;
- ability to perform duties according to moral and professional qualities, educational and professional level and state of health.
Candidates will be tested according to the legislation, for general skills and will have to undergo an interview (which, in particular, provides for a polygraph for the Head and the Deputy).
How the commission will evaluate the candidate at the interview is regulated by the methodology and criteria for evaluating practical tasks and results of the interview. For example, each member of the commission will give a score from 0 to 3 for different indicators. And the decision on the candidate’s further participation in the competition after assessing his or her integrity should be made based on the formula 5+2 (where 5 is the number of commission members from the Parliament, and 2 is from the Council of Prosecutors).
After all the stages, a single ranked list will be made. The first candidate on the list will become the new head of the SAPO, and the second candidate will become his or her deputy. The prosecutor’s appointment to the administrative position of the SAPO head and the deputy is made by the Prosecutor General, and to the position of the head of the department—by the head of the SAPO.
Behind the scenes.
Behind the scenes, several things can significantly affect the competition process. For example, the interview stage, which will consist of a polygraph (only for the head and his/her deputy), assessment of the candidate’s integrity, the practical assignment, and determination of professional competencies.
Integrity is precisely the criterion that should provide an opportunity to eliminate questionable candidates. However, the wording “reasonable doubt” raises questions. There may be speculation as to what degree of justification there should be, what the criteria for justification are, and most importantly, to whom exactly the issues should be justified: to the member of the commission, the candidate, or outsiders?
For example, say, a candidate has irregularities between his/her declared income level and assets, and he/she cannot or even refuses to explain where the car/house/money/etc. came from. Such behavior and lack of explanation about the origin of the assets may be a sufficient “reasonable doubt.”
Since winners will be determined according to the ranking position after all phases of the selection process, the committee will not have a final vote on a potential winner. On the one hand, this approach protects against additional influence. However, some members may purposely give inadequately low/high scores to candidates in order to influence the final ranking.
Another unresolved issue is the participation of the member of the commission from parliament Oleksii Drozd. At the time of his selection to the commission, he was the head of the higher doctorate and adjunct department at the National Academy of Internal Affairs. And the National Academy of Internal Affairs noted that O. Drozd is a police officer, detached to the educational institution. This contradicts Article 8-1 of the Law of Ukraine “On Prosecution”: law enforcement officers cannot be members of the competition commission, among others.
The commission continues collecting the positions of institutions and state bodies regarding the situation with Oleksii Drozd, and so far, no decision has been reached about his work in the commission. All this time, Drozd himself does not participate in decision-making.
Perhaps the competition procedure itself is issued difficult and long, and there are risks; however, the “reward” is serious. Daredevils who successfully pass the selection will get an opportunity to head the key anti-corruption institution and work with cases that would have been unrealistic 10 years ago. The professional and personal challenges will be incredible, but also the achievement in this position can directly affect the development of our country in the coming years. Isn’t it a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity?
And those who see the inspiration and potential in themselves should summon their strength and collect documents—and give it a try. The competition will be held under the close supervision of the public, the expert community, and the international community. Commission meetings are public and broadcast online. This will narrow down the space for concerned parties’ manipulation.
It should be exciting!