On June 11, we finally had a chance to read the official text of the Memorandum between Ukraine and the International Monetary Fund.
The document has four signatures: Zelenskyy, Shmyhal, Marchenko and Smolii. This gives me hope that the authorities do indeed plan on following their commitments. After the first tranche of USD 2.1 billion, another one of USD 2.9 billion is supposed to be transferred. Needless to say, we need it, bad.
The agreement covers many issues, including quite a few anti-corruption commitments. Under the Memorandum, we have to make every effort to fight against grand corruption. The independence and integrity of the NABU, the SAPO and the HACC must be preserved, through provision of the necessary resources. The judicial reform will finally have to start: how much more can we wait, anyway?
So, what’s in there?
1. The High Anti-Corruption Court. The government promises to give the HACC a permanent office building by August 2020. It is important because the whole story with the absence of a relevant facility has been going on for over a year. I doubt the situation will be fully resolved by August, but giving the court the right to manage its current building would be the first important step.
In its turn, the HACC will publish reports on its performance. For instance, the NABU and the SAPO report twice a year. This is a necessary practice which gives people answers to many questions and helps us ask new ones.
2. The NABU. The Bureau must be provided with everything necessary, including anything it needs to organize independent wiretapping, as well as decent salaries. The story with wiretapping is basically phenomenal. The law allows it since last year, but the budget does not provide any money for the equipment, which directly affects the independence of investigation.
Finally! Ukraine promises to perform the audit of the Bureau. Why “finally”? Because we have been talking about it for several years now.
3. The SAPO. The Prosecutor’s Office must be provided with greater independence and the required resources. It’s intriguing if you think of the recent tension between the SAPO and the Prosecutor General’s Office. External audit must be performed by reputable experts with international experience. Honestly, we are tired of speaking about this, too.
4. Electronic declarations. Public e-declaration requirements must apply to politically exposed persons, and it should become a priority. As usual, we are all for it. We wonder how this will correlate with the recent amendments to the Law “On Corruption Prevention,” though. The question is to the Parliament and the Presidential Office.
5. Judicial reform. “We will strengthen the rule of law by ensuring independence, integrity and accountability of judicial agencies,” says the document. This means judicial reform, or, to be more specific, the High Council of Justice. This is a touchy issue, since the need for this reform has exceeded all possible warning signs.
Under the IMF agreement, we commit to electing scrupulous representatives to the HCJ and create a permanent commission for disciplinary cases. The IMF has given Ukraine a deadline until October 2020, and this will be one of the points used to assess how well Ukraine is performing on Memorandum implementation.
6. Beneficial owners. Under the agreement, Ukraine commits to verification of beneficial owners, and the mechanism of effective sanctions will be created by the end of December 2020. The Law on Beneficial Owners obliges Ukrainian companies to report their final beneficiaries. However, there is no effective way to verify this information right now or bring companies to liability for false information. The IMF expects us to resolve this problem.
7. Pandemic procurement. Medical procurement, including that for COVID-19, has to take place through the Prozorro system with indication of beneficial owners of the participants. The State Audit Service of Ukraine will have to perform the audit of procurement under the COVID-19 program with advice of external auditors. This will be another verified milestone by March 2021. The Cabinet promises to report on the use of the COVID-19 fund in detail.
To be fair, the Memorandum includes some steps that have already been taken by the Parliament and the Government, such as a rebooted NACP, legal option for wiretapping by the NABU (I have explained this above), the creation of the HACC. We have also committed to continuing the healthcare reform, applying the new funding regime to secondary and specialized healthcare. As for privatization, sales and lease of public property will continue thanks to transparent Prozorro.Sale auctions.
These things are all good and fair, though some may look not ambitious enough. Now it’s all about implementation, and this is where we usually encounter problems.
Not this time, though. Right?