Very soon, after the holidays, the final stage of the call for head of the Specialized Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office and the deputy will begin. 

As we can see, less than a year will have most likely passed from the moment the SAPO has been under the leadership of the acting director. After all, Nazar Kholodnytskyi, the former head of this body, resigned just at the end of the summer of 2020. This has changed a lot in the work of the Specialized Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office.

In fact, since then, the Prosecutor General has been behind the SAPO’s wheel in most cases. Iryna Venediktova, who in May 2020 ruthlessly criticized the SAPO for being inactive, slow, and helpless, already in the fall fully took over this hard-bitten body and was directly influencing too many decisions in the work of the institution. Although the SAPO is required by law to be autonomous and independent of any influence, including interference from the Prosecutor General’s Office, in the absence of a permanent head, most guarantees of independence of this element of the anti-corruption infrastructure have been dubious.

It is expanding the guarantees of the SAPO’s independence from the Office of the Prosecutor General and ending political pressure from various stakeholders that have become the main recommendations in the study of capacity, management, and interaction of anti-corruption infrastructure bodies, which was presented by TI Ukraine last autumn. And this is not surprising because such vulnerability to external influences of the SAPO’s performance violates the guarantees of the body’s independence and undermines the anti-corruption system.

In total, as a result of our study, the SAPO received 3.3 points, thus sharing third place with the National Agency on Corruption Prevention. Despite the fact that the basic information collection and analysis were carried out until September 2020, even then there were visible potential challenges and dangers that the body could face, namely, the absence of a legitimate leader and certain delays in starting the call for a new head of the SAPO. And these dangers not only appeared, but also escalated quickly. Therefore, ensuring transparent, independent, politically impartial selection of candidates for the position of head were the main recommendations of the study on the Specialized Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office.

Now, the call for administrative positions of SAPO is on its final stages. And we still hope that the SAPO will be able to get a decent leader, although the attitude of some commission members to integrity, openness, and a spotless reputation is questionable. Still, these people have a decisive voice in making the final decision on who will have to manage the SAPO in the next five years.

Will the new head of the SAPO be the result of a political consensus? Will this person become a “convenient” one for big business and the political elite? Will we be able to see a really “big fish” be caught and given a real sentence?

We will have the answers to these questions very soon. Meanwhile, we plan to follow the interviews of candidates online, which will begin after the May break. And so far, we can still hope that the strongest and truly virtuous candidate will win.