At the beginning of the full-scale war, the ministries had to resolve the issues quickly. And although these decisions were not perfect, many of them still had a positive effect. Thus, the duty-free import of cars, although allowed many to renew their fleets, also helped to quickly find cars for the Armed Forces. The opportunity to purchase the necessary things for budget money without tenders allowed to organize procurement at the moment when 83% of entrepreneurs stopped or reduced their activities, although the accessibility and openness of public procurement has been significantly affected.
One of the steps taken by the government was also the decision of the Ministry of Digital Transformation to close the open data portal. It collected almost all open registers and datasets available in Ukraine. The portal was closed on the caution that the information from there could be used by the russians — at the end of February, there was no opportunity to separately check and weigh the risks for each of them.
However, time was running out. Some challenges were handled, some disappeared, and regarding other officials had enough time to prepare more thought-through and comprehensive solutions. Therefore, the duty-free import of cars was canceled, and the procurement was partially returned to free access for business on Prozorro.
On 1 August, the operation of Open Data Portal was also resumed. However, it stopped publishing 141 sets because these data are of potential risk. Among them is the Unified State Register of Legal Entities and Individual Entrepreneurs (USR). The speed of economic recovery, trust in state bodies, and prompt provision of assistance to Ukraine directly depend on its openness.
Search for Business Development Options and Unoccupied Niches
The USR contains information about the state of enterprises, their place of registration, what they do. For the business or those who planned to open a business, this was one of the important channels to relatively quickly assess the number of competitors, find potential partners, customers, or suppliers. This helped to make business decisions more quickly and, accordingly, to implement plans, to develop their business and the economy of the country.
Trust in the Business
“Is the firm registered in the places of mass registration? Was it created only yesterday? Was the owner the founder of a dozen firms that only existed for a few months? Does the company regularly change owners, or did it move from construction to tailoring a month ago?” is only a small list of questions, the affirmative answer to which means an increased risk that the potential partner is unreliable.
Before the war, the verification of a potential counterparty in the USR became a routine matter, which reduces the risk of loss of funds, and accordingly, contributes to building new partnerships. Since the beginning of the war, this need has not disappeared and has even become more urgent.
Protection against Seizure of Business
One of the problems of business is raiding, during which the business is registered to outsiders. The sooner real owners find that they have been excluded from the list of owners, the sooner they will be able to react and the lesser the losses will be.
For this reason, in 2020, the USR began to be publicly updated every day, which allowed quickly tracking the main changes regarding the company. Now, the only way to receive these data directly from the state is to conclude an agreement with the state enterprise “National Information Systems” and pay almost UAH 5,000 every month.
The significant threat of losing your business at any moment, not only from shelling, but also from raiding, doesn’t really prompt to open your own business or expand the already existing one.
Effective Public Policy
Thanks to the open USR, authorities at any level could track how their actions impact the emergence of new businesses, re-profiling, relocation, as well as identify negative trends in business development.
These data are useful for international partners. After all, they allow them to understand the economy of the region or a separate sector and, consequently, to better develop a support program or approve a request for financing local initiatives.
Now, because of the changing structure of the market and the need to restore the economy, relevant and accessible information is one of the important factors for timely and effective solutions.
Trust in the State
The USR helped to remove the issue of persons receiving illegal benefits from their positions. Who owns a firm that was registered only a month ago and is already winning tenders for billions? Who received state assets or the right to extract materials for nothing?
In addition, openness is an additional shot against slander and information attacks by russians.
Despite the advantages, the opening of the USR may carry a potential risk to the country’s defense capacity. In particular, publishing the addresses of defense entities can make it easier for the enemy to find targets for attacks, and displaying information about heads of defense enterprises can potentially increase the danger to their lives.
However, these risks can be relatively easily eliminated — it is enough to remove the exact addresses of such enterprises and leave, for example, only the region, not to display information about the heads of defense enterprises.
Therefore, the USR needs to be returned at the moment — the benefits of this for the state and business outweigh the risks. And the latter can be dealt with.
In addition to the USR, the Ministry of Digital Transformation concealed 140 more registers; the risks are not obvious, and their closure could possibly have a significant negative impact. For example, the Public Cadastral Map of Ukraine is important for the normal implementation of land reform and tracking potential abuses. And the Unified State Register of persons who committed corruption or corruption-related offenses allows for better tracking whether recognized corrupt officials continue to receive funds from the state.
Therefore, it is worth checking again all datasets that are to be closed and assess the potential risks and benefits of their publication. If there are no threats, then such a register needs to be published in full. If they there are threats, sensitive information needs to be concealed and the rest of the data published. Complete closure of sets and registers will harm Ukrainians much more.
The material was created with the support of USAID / UK aid project “Transparency and Accountability in Public Administration and Services / TAPAS”