On June 24, the National Agency for Corruption Prevention published a draft Anti-Corruption Strategy for 2020-2024. To say that we have been waiting for this document for too long is an understatement. For two and a half years, our country has been functioning without a comprehensive document defining the focus for anti-corruption efforts.
Since the publication, the NACP has held eight public discussions. 270 participants, 26 invited experts, over 30,000 views on social media. The Agency actively engaged with the public, and the public enthusiastically commented on the new document.
What’s in the Strategy?
Overall, the Strategy focuses on the effective corruption prevention system, ensuring unavoidable liability for corruption, and corruption prevention in key sectors. Those include justice, the public sector and economic regulation, competition, customs and taxes, public procurement, the defense sector, healthcare, integrity of political parties, and the private sector.
However, what’s strange is that the document does not bring up corruption issues pertaining to the prosecution and the National Police. Does this mean that NACP takes no issue with them? Especially considering the Head of the Agency is a former prosecutor.
This concern is shared by participants in an online discussion about disciplinary, administrative, and criminal liability. Imagine, 91% of them said that it is impossible to talk about ensuring inevitable liability effectively without a strategy to prevent corruption in the police and prosecution.
Moreover, the prosecution and the police are viewed as some of the most corruption institutions, both according to the general public and experts. We can see this in the study Corruption in Ukraine 2020: Understanding, Perception, Prevalence.
The NACP did claim, though, the priorities were defined according to that same study.
The Anti-Corruption Strategy has some strong points and some shortcomings. While the project is 70-80% comprehensive and current, I hope it will improve further.
The previous NACP’s group work produced some mediocre junk and called it a “strategy.” This one is going down much more smoothly.
For instance, there’s the section on fair justice. It has already come under fire from the High Council of Justice, which is probably a good sign. They talked about the NACP’s mandate and claimed it could not say things like that in the Anti-Corruption Strategy (which is not true!). The High Council of Justice also claims the NACP’s suggestions are unconstitutional and cannot thus be part of the strategy, which is of course complete nonsense, too. I think the NACP merits our full support in this confrontation.
What’s strange is that the document does not bring up corruption issues pertaining to the prosecution and the National Police. Does this mean that NACP takes no issue with them? Especially considering the Head of the Agency is a former prosecutor.
However, there are parts of the Strategy that need improvement.
The main section to be improved is 2.3 on conflict of interest and general anti-corruption restriction and prohibitions. The published section is not flexible enough and too detailed. This may cause difficulties when the National Program for the Implementation of the Anti-Corruption Strategy is prepared. At the same time, quality suffers, since certain issues (ethics codes for local councilors, for one) are not in the document at all. Some general things like raising awareness of the relevant requirements, have been left out as well, for some reason.
Section 2.4 on financial control does not mention the so-called special subjects of declarations — intelligence and counterintelligence officers, special service officials, etc. — and their questionable declarations, which was brought up at the online discussion. It is essential that they declare their assets and the NACP verify them.
Section 2.5 on protection of corruption whistleblowers. The biggest problem for now is the lack of focus on the fact that the Ukrainian legislation is not yet in line with the EU Directive on whistleblower protection. Together with our colleagues in this sector (ACREC, Blueprint for Free Speech), we have proposed some changes and sent them to the NACP to be reviewed.
The NACP should be consistent in its work. In the National Report 2019, Agency representatives assessed the new legislation on whistleblowers to be the first step to introduce reliable whistleblower protection in accordance with international standards and best practices. Head of the NACP Oleksandr Novikov also publicly speaks about the importance of respecting whistleblowers.
Another questionable part is section 3.8 on the funding of political parties. Perhaps, the NACP lacks time and resources to prepare a more comprehensive vision, which may also be due to preparation of the electronic register for political party reporting. I will write about this in greater detail in the future.
Section 4 on ensuring unavoidable liability for corruption sometimes, too, suffers from excessive detail and isolated measures. This does not work for a strategic document. This also does not quite keep up with the scope of expected strategic results in other sections. This may lead to difficulties with monitoring and evaluation of the Strategy.
By the way, when the Strategy was published, the accompanying draft law was published as well. It is well-written. For instance, we should support the idea that the National Report on Implementation of Anti-Corruption Policy Fundamentals will be drafted at the end of the Anti-Corruption Strategy period, not every years. This will free up some NACP resources and direct them to a more productive cause.
Now, the NACP is processing proposals submitted by the public. We expect them to compile an aggregated protocol explaining why they chose to include or reject any suggestions. After that, the NACP has to have the document approved by public agencies. Then it will be voted in the Parliament as a separate law.
We hope it will happen this coming autumn. Ukraine lived without an anti-corruption strategy for a long time, and we can see it was not very successful.
The biggest problem for now is the lack of focus on the fact that the Ukrainian legislation is not yet in line with the EU Directive on whistleblower protection.