According to the results of 2021, Ukraine lost 1 point in the annual Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI). Georgia, Armenia, and Moldova are still ahead.

Given the current events, the loss of one point by Ukraine may seem insignificant, albeit unpleasant. However, experts know that such data should be considered not point-by-point, but systematically — to understand the scale and context.

CPI of a capable country

There are no countries without corruption. In the very Corruption Perceptions Index, the leading countries do not even reach 90 points out of 100 possible. This year, Denmark, New Zealand, and Finland each have scored 88 points, and this is the best result among all 180 countries.

In other words, no country can fully overcome this problem. No matter how much money is invested in the fight against corruption and regardless of what ideal laws are adopted, there will always be those who will try to be able to circumvent them or roll back the reform.

However, there are generally accepted principles of combating corruption: prevention and punishment. On the one hand, it is necessary to reduce the space for corruption, on the other — to allow consequences to occur where prevention could not. When we talk about high levels of transparency and accountability, an effective system of checks and balances, and fair allocation of resources, trust in the government and its institutions — it’s all about a low level of corruption.

However, what is behind these general phrases, what was and was not implemented in Ukraine to have a strong immunity to corruption manifestations?

Stagnating or moving forward?

After the Revolution of Dignity, Ukraine’s position in the CPI only grew. However, according to the results of 2019, the first decline occurred, which symbolized the stagnation in the last two years of Petro Poroshenko’s presidential cadence. A year later, we received an increase of 3 points, and this year — minus one. Therefore, in general, it turns out that the current result of Ukraine repeats the indicators of 2018.

Does this mean that nothing has changed in the anti-corruption sphere in Ukraine in three years? Of course not. During the so-called “turbo mode” in 2019, MPs adopted a number of crucial anti-corruption laws and in the next two years, although without prior enthusiasm, they continued to improve legislation in this area.

Thus, at the end of 2020, the Verkhovna Rada restored all the powers of the NACP lost due to the decision of the Constitutional Court of October 27, 2020, and this has had a positive impact on our current CPI. We also managed to preserve and improve the institution of whistleblower, update the law on the ARMA (the Agency waited three years for these changes), and finally bring the NABU’s activities in accordance with the Constitution of Ukraine. Before that, the Constitutional Court declared twice the right of the President to appoint the director of the Bureau as unconstitutional, generally questioning all the decisions by Artem Sytnyk in 7 years of work.

However, all these changes were a result of the processes laid down earlier: some were conceived during the “turbo mode,” and others — in the last years of Poroshenko’s presidency. Though these innovations were sometimes implemented “with pain and misery.”

What can a country with a low Corruption Perceptions Index do?

The main reason for the decline in Ukraine’s points is that too many urgent anti-corruption tasks are delayed, frozen, or postponed indefinitely.

Last year, Transparency International Ukraine formed three systemic recommendations; the authorities partially implemented two, and one was not implemented at all. In addition, some processes, such as the exclusion of public procurement from the scope of specialized law, political influence on the process of electing the head of the SAPO, and the lack of a strategic vision in the fight against corruption, have only increased. We can see the result in the Index points.

Unfortunately, we have to state that the authorities focus their efforts on strengthening or retaining influence on various branches of government, including the anti-corruption ecosystem, rather than on achieving the promised victory over corruption.

However, given the aggravation of the security situation, we must mobilize again, as in 2014, because this is really a matter of our survival and further well-being. Our defense capability and the strength of the state as a system of relations and rules depends on stable institutions and financial viability. Therefore, we propose to strengthen the state while there is still time.


5 specific steps that can help grow in the CPI

  • To complete competitions and select professional, independent, and honest heads of anti-corruption ecosystem bodies: the Specialized Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office, the Asset Recovery and Management Agency, and the National Anti-Corruption Bureau.

An independent, professional, and experienced leader is the key to the success of any body, and in the case of anti-corruption bodies, it is also a threat to some representatives of the corrupt political elite and various groups of influence. In seven years of the decisive anti-corruption reform, there has not been a single day when the leadership of all the five anti-corruption bodies was fully formed.

Not a single competition for the head of the anti-corruption body was “smooth:” long formation of the commission and political influence on it, delays and suspicions that the commission members wanted to push through a clearly convenient candidate for the government, media attacks on the process itself.

The only exception was the competition for head of the NACP, conducted in 2019. However, at that time, the country had a window of opportunity — now it is already closed.

The experience of the SAPO competition, which has been going on for 16 months, may trigger a trend when every 5-7 years, with the end of the cadence of a particular leader in Ukraine, an epochal (or rather ludicrous) process for electing a successor begins.

In addition to the initiated and still unfinished competitions in the SAPO and the ARMA, a competition for the head of the NABU will begin in spring. On the one hand, it’s more protected from outside interference due to the guaranteed participation of international experts in the commission, on the other hand, the authorities will definitely try to influence its results by using various instruments.

However, if the authorities really want to prove their intransigence to corruption, then rapid completion of competitions in the SAPO and the ARMA, as well as a transparent, quick, and effective competition in the NABU, can be proof of this.

  • To adopt the national Anti-Corruption Strategy and the program for its implementation.

Since 2017, Ukraine has no strategic vision for overcoming corruption. Since 2020, a new five-year strategy developed by the NACP involving a large number of experts remains in the Verkhovna Rada. In November 2020, it was voted in the first reading, then in March 2021, the specialized committee completed consideration of the amendments and finalized it. However, MPs have neither time nor desire to adopt this document.

Overcoming corruption is a set of systemic and diverse measures that should be aimed at a specific and measurable goal. It is a strategy with a clear and understandable plan for its implementation that can become a guide as to how and in which direction the country and, in particular, participants in the fight against corruption should move.

  • To reform constitutional justice, considering the conclusions provided by the Venice Commission.

The judicial system remains the biggest threat to the sustainability of reforms in all areas. In 2021, we spent time overcoming the consequences of the decision of the Constitutional Court of Ukraine on anti-corruption reform. Key laws remain under consideration in the Constitutional Court, such as the law on the creation of an anti-corruption court, issues related to declaring and monitoring lifestyle.

The fact is that the judges of the Constitutional Court were appointed by different subjects at different times (the Congress of Judges of Ukraine, the Verkhovna Rada, and the President), and each has a nine-year term in office. However, the election procedure in practice was far from competitive. With another judge resigning, it is necessary to appoint a new one who would be selected as part of a real competition. And this should already provide for testing the candidate’s knowledge and integrity. Thus, over time, we will get an updated composition of the KSU.

The situation with the KSU can be changed by implementing recommendations of the Venice Commission. Namely, to create a body that will vet candidates for the position of judge of the Constitutional Court, which will include international experts and members of the public, to narrow the scope of decisions of the Constitutional Court, and so on.

  • To ensure transparent accounting of public property and continue the course of privatization.

In 30 years of independence, Ukraine has not been able to get rid of the Soviet legacy in the form of non-core public property and inefficient state-owned enterprises. In Ukraine, since Soviet times, the idea that if an object is state-owned, then it should remain so dominates, despite its state. Usually, such enterprises are dilapidated and do not benefit the state.

State-owned enterprises are one of the largest hotbeds of corruption. Privatization under clear and transparent rules in a competitive environment is a real panacea in the fight against this. And speeding up such a course with the support of all branches of government is something that the country can do if there is a desire, that is, a political will.

  • To minimize the risks of adopting draft laws which exclude procurement from the scope of the Law of Ukraine “On Public Procurement.”

The last year was extremely unsuccessful for the public procurement sector — the number of exclusions from the scope of the specialized law significantly increased. One of the key motivations for these proposals and votes was “because it’s faster this way.” However, excluding certain government expenditures from the competitive field is harmful in terms of cost and efficiency. We do not deny that some decisions really needed an immediate response, but there have been only a few of them, and they definitely should not require billions of hryvnias.

Changing the focus from short-term tasks to strategic ones that will produce results in the medium term is something that the authorities need to focus their efforts on. The field of public procurement requires comprehensive changes, not targeted ones.


Without political will, it will be difficult to preserve what has been accomplished and implement what is new and progressive. However, Ukrainian experience shows that when the pressure from below is strong enough, the decision-making centers are motivated. You get the idea.

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The main reason for the decline in Ukraine's points is that too many urgent anti-corruption tasks are delayed, frozen, or postponed indefinitely.