Today, the activists of anti-corruption organizations, dressed in costumes of ski instructors and cartoon heroes, have picketed the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, demanding the falsification of auditors’ election for NABU to be stopped.
Participants of the protest, namely ‘ski instructors’, ‘Peppa Pig’, ‘Shrek’, ‘ninja turtles’ and other cartoon heroes offered themselves as candidates for the commission of auditors for NABU (the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine). They believe that the commission is being formed in a shady and unlawful way.
Activists accuse the People’s Front and the Petro Poroshenko Bloc parliamentary factions of attempting to appoint a little-known foreign security consultant with a questionable reputation as the auditor of NABU, an agency he has already started to criticize.
The person in question is Nigel Brown, whose name was first mentioned by the Head of the Petro Poroshenko Bloc, Ihor Hryniv, during the consideration of the NABU auditor appointment in the Verkhovna Rada. Brown himself refuses to tell who invited him to Ukraine and what makes him – a commercial consultant for Russian oligarchs – a good candidate for the position of auditor of the independent law enforcement agency.
‘Who is Mr. Brown? What experience does he possess? Is he an independent figure? He has not given a straight answer to these questions. It reminds me of the situation with a businessman with whom Yanukovych wanted to sign a worth billions contract for building an LNG terminal and who turned out later to be a ski instructor,’ says Daryna Kaleniuk from the Anti-Corruption Action Centre. ‘Oddly, Mr. Brown was present every time his candidacy was considered in the Verkhovna Rada or the Committee. His independence is doubtful. How can a busy person find enough time and money to visit Ukraine thrice in 1.5 months? It looks like a plan to use a loyal and controllable person that looks like an independent foreign professional to destroy NABU,’ added Kaleniuk, dressed in a helmet and carrying a ‘Parubii, make me an auditor’ poster and skis in her hands.
It should be recalled that the NABU director (Artem Sytnyk) can only be dismissed if a report of three auditors selected by the president, parliament and government finds his work unsatisfactory.
The scandal broke out when the People’s Front and the Petro Poroshenko Bloc factions disregarded the candidate selected by the committee and decided to nominate a man on whom they agreed on their own, Nigel Brown.
Mr. Brown did not participate in the competition and was not supported by the Anti-Corruption Committee. Moreover, after conducting an open screening that started in January 2016, the committee decided to select another person. This person is Robert Storch, who possesses many years of experience in auditing the FBI and Interpol. However, because of the lack of votes, the speaker had to return this document to the committee for revision. Three deputies from the Petro Poroshenko Bloc joined it to ensure a positive outcome.
During the first session of the committee, these deputies started to push Brown’s candidacy. After this tactic failed, some of the members of the committee resorted to provocation. They assembled for a secret ‘session’ and ‘voted’ for Mr. Brown, breaking the law in the process of doing so. While this ‘decision’ had no legal force, the speaker, Andrii Parubii, still put it to a vote last week. Again, there were not enough votes to consider it.
‘It is symbolic that the conspirators called their meeting on March 16. Three years ago, on January 16, the frightened supporters of Yanukovych voted for the dictatorial laws. Now there is another committee’s decision dated March 16 about the auditor of NABU. The consequences of both decisions are almost the same,’ says Kateryna Butko from Avtomaidan, explaining the second peaceful protest. On the day of Nigel Brown’s candidacy consideration in the Verkhovna Rada, the activists of Avtomaidan blocked the exit for the deputies.
Activists suspect that the speaker will help the conspirators again and put the fake/illegitimate decision of some of the Anti-Corruption Committee members to a vote. This decision offers the parliament the choice between two candidates instead of one that won the fair competition. After witnessing the scheming that the two parliamentary factions employed, the organizers of the protest find it is easy to predict who will get more votes.
‘Today’s parade of cartoon heroes that want to become auditors of NABU is a reflection of the disorder caused by the deputies of the president’s faction. The government, afraid of recent arrests, has turned the selection of auditors into nonsense. People from both inside and outside the country (including the ones from the central office of Transparency International) observe this performance. The appearance of ‘ski instructors’ and the falsification of the selection procedure have already undermined the public trust in their future assessment. The people who got elected because of the activists who died on Maidan may lose that trust too,’ explains Yaroslav Yurchyshyn, Executive Director of Transparency International Ukraine. The goal of this hoax is to get an agreeable auditor who will sign the needed report to carry out the plan to destroy the agency.
Activists emphasize that gross violations and intrigues during the selection process make the procedure and any conclusions of the auditors questionable and politically biased. They believe that the attempt to include both candidates in the vote is unlawful.
‘Our committee was assigned with selecting an auditor. We conducted a competition, listened to all the candidates and voted for the American prosecutor, Robert Storch, in a transparent way. Now it is all tossed aside, because the authorities want to have a controllable auditor. This behavior can only be explained by fear. I urge my colleagues from the parliament to come to their senses and to stop taking part in this scheme to destroy NABU. We can only trust a nonpartisan and professional person, whose conclusion will be independent and unbiased, to conduct the first audit. If the president wants to see Mr. Brown among the auditors, he can delegate him under his own quota,’ says the Head of the Anti-Corruption Committee, Yehor Sobolev.
As we know, according to the Law of Ukraine ‘On the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine’, the president, parliament and government each choose a single person with the necessary qualifications, considerable experience in prosecution, in courts of foreign countries or pre-trial investigations and a flawless reputation to conduct such audit every year.
On March 18, after the scandal took place, the Prime Minister, Vladimir Hroisman, declared the search for an auditor selected by the government open.
‘The selection of the NABU auditor named by the government has started. Oleksandr Sayenko and Pavlo Petrenko have met public representatives to discuss the open competition for the position of an auditor for the commission that will conduct an independent assessment of NABU’s work,’ posted Hroisman on Facebook.
He said that the transparency of the competition would be very important to ensure that a respectable and professional person was chosen. ‘I expect a constructive dialogue between the authorities and the public, as well as the selection of a truly responsible representative,’ he added.