The process of decolonization is underway in Ukraine. According to the new law, there should be no Russian, Soviet, or imperial names left in our cities and villages in six months. Ukrainians generally support changing the names of streets, squares, parks, and other toponyms. A study by the Ilko Kucheriv Democratic Initiatives Foundation showed that about 60% of respondents supported the decision on decolonization.
Municipalities work differently with this task. Thus, since the beginning of the full-scale war, 42 city councils out of 50 studied by the Transparent Cities program have renamed 3,225 toponyms; no changes have been recorded in 8 cities.
The next step in the process of toponym decolonization is to change the plaques. Transparent Cities studied what the physical dimension of renaming is, and how cities are procuring new plaques for buildings and roads.
To do this, we selected 20 cities where the renaming of toponyms had been conducted in 2022-23, among them:
- 19 regional centers (Kyiv, Vinnytsia, Sumy, Kropyvnytskyi, Cherkasy, Chernihiv, Zaporizhzhia, Chernivtsi, Rivne, Lviv, Dnipro, Lutsk, Uzhhorod, Ivano-Frankivsk, Khmelnytskyi, Kharkiv, Zhytomyr, Ternopil, Odesa)
- 1 city of regional subordination, representing Donetsk Oblast (Kramatorsk).
The analysis is based on responses to inquiries we sent to city councils regarding the conducted or planned procurement of new address plaques and road signs.
In the course of the study, we recorded 5 categories of city councils:
- city councils that procured the plaques during 2022-2023 and plan to conduct more tenders;
- city councils that purchased address plaques and signs, but do not plan to do it anymore;
- city councils that did not purchase plaques and signs, but plan to;
- city councils that did not purchase plaques and signs and do not plan to;
- city councils that do not have information about the conducted or planned procurement.
Our study has a timeframe. Thus, in the period between collecting information and publishing the material, the cities that had planned to carry out procurement of new address plaques or road signs in the city could have already conducted it. Instead, city councils that did not plan such procurement could have included it in the plans.
In general, the owners or balance holders of buildings are responsible for replacing the old plaques. This may be the executive body for housing and municipal services, district administrations, housing maintenance organizations and enterprises, housing cooperatives, housing administration, institutions, enterprises, organizations, educational institutions, etc. The list of institutions and organizations that ensure the change of address plaques is usually defined in the City Municipal Improvement Rules (Odesa, Kropyvnytskyi, Khmelnytskyi).
How did cities procure address plaques and signs?
According to the results of the study, 5 cities have already purchased address plaques and signs. These are Kyiv, Lviv, Dnipro, Lutsk, and Ternopil. These cities purchased at least 9,900 address plaques or road signs for about UAH 14 mln.
The Solomianskyi District Administration of Kyiv, in response to the inquiry, noted that since 2015 and until now, it has purchased 221 house plaques for UAH 33,600. Since there is no detailed information on the amount of plaques purchased in 2022-2023, it is not displayed on the infographic.
The median cost of one plaque is UAH 1,097. The Lychakiv district of Lviv procured the most expensive plaques. It is due to the fact that the tender amount of UAH 6,700 included not only street signs, but also poles, their installation, preparation of concrete, crushed stone and embedded parts (elements installed in the structure before concreting — author’s note).
So, this figure was excluded from the calculation of the median price in order to preserve the relevance of the data; the program estimates the cost of plaques and signs without related elements.
We also checked the tenders of those city councils that had indicated the procurement ID in the response to the inquiry. It turned out that in Dnipro, all 3 tenders for the purchase of address plaques and house number plaques were won by the same participant — individual entrepreneur Hefter Vadym Yakovych. A person with the same full name and identification code is included in the Myrotvorets database due to “deliberate violation of the state border of Ukraine with the aim of penetrating into Crimea, occupied by Russia, and participating in propaganda activities of Russia (the aggressor country).” Coincidence?
However, the procuring entity did not violate the existing legal norms in the case of these three agreements because the ban on public procurement of goods, works, and services applies, in particular, to citizens of Russia and Belarus, legal entities registered in the territory of Russia and Belarus, or legal entities that have citizens of Russia and Belarus among the beneficiaries and shareholders. This is more about the moral aspect of procurement. Thus, the supplier of plaques for new toponyms designed to do away with the Russian trace on our streets will be a person who has been friendly to Russia for a long time.
In addition, the amount in the contracts significantly exceeds the income limits for individual entrepreneurs of group 3 of 5%. Thus, the maximum annual income of this group reaches UAH 7,818,900, while the Dnipro City Council alone concluded contracts with this individual entrepreneur for more than UAH 13.6 mln.
The Transparent Cities program asked the Dnipro City Council for a commentary: at the time of signing the contract with individual entrepreneur Hefter, did the procuring entities know that a person with an identical full name and identification code was included in the Myrotvorets database? In response, our request for information was denied, with a statement that such data were unavailable, and their creation contradicted the requirements of the Law of Ukraine On Access to Public Information.
UPD dated September 7, 2023: the Dnipro City Council sent a clarifying response to the inquiry dated September 5, 2023. You can read the text of the response at the link.
How do cities plan to procure address plaques and road signs?
Currently, 8 more cities plan to purchase address plaques and road signs — Kyiv (Municipal Enterprise Center for Traffic Organization, Svyatoshynskyi, Solomianskyi, Dniprovskyi, and Shevchenkivskyi district administrations in the city), Vinnytsia, Kropyvnytskyi (Fortechnyi and Podilskyi district administrations in the city), Chernivtsi, Lutsk, Kharkiv, Zhytomyr, and Ivano-Frankivsk.
Municipalities and district administrations of cities are going to purchase more than 11,000 address signs for almost UAH 2 mln. However, the cost of the new street signs is approximate because 3 cities do not yet have the funds to purchase them or did not detail the amount that could be spent on them.
Some city councils or district state administrations in cities were not featured on the infographic due to incomplete data on planned procurement. Thus, 7,134 signs are planned to be purchased in Vinnytsia, 201 in Solomianskyi district of Kyiv, and 124 in Dniprovskyi district of the capital. However, it is not yet known how much the cities plan to spend on this. Instead, UAH 200,000 was allocated in Ivano-Frankivsk, while there is no information on the number of address plaques or signs.
In addition, this infographic, unlike the previous one, does not indicate procuring entities, since it is not known who will hold these tenders.
The median price of plaques or signs that are planned to be purchased is UAH 650. Thus, the cost of the purchased plaque and the cost of the planned plaques differ by 41%.
What does it tell us? It signals, on the one hand that cities, potentially, navigate pricing policy for address plaques poorly, and the envisaged funds will not suffice to purchase signs. On the other hand, the price of the plaque consists of various characteristics, such as size, material, delivery, installation, accompanying attachment devices. Therefore, the cost of UAH 200 in one city can only mean the purchase of the smallest street sign, and in the other for UAH 1,000 — the manufacture and installation of a plaque, whose appearance is provided by the requirements of municipal improvement.
Which cities did not buy the plaques and signs, and why?
Among the cities that we studied were those which did not conduct and did not plan to conduct the procurement of new plaques and signs. They explain this with a number of reasons, including:
- lack of funds or their redirection to solve problems related to the Russian attack (5 cities);
- lack of authority/obligation to purchase address plaques and road signs (2 cities).
- 7 cities (both city councils and district administrations in the city), in response to the inquiry, did not provide detailed information on why they did not conduct or did not plan to purchase address signs.
Analysis of the responses of the city councils showed that they procured address plaques at a slow pace and not everywhere. There is a rational explanation for this — cities are currently facing many problems caused by the war, which require significant costs and priority solutions (repairs of schools or hospitals, support for IDPs, military assistance, preparation for the heating season, etc.). At the same time, the processes of changing address plaques within the framework of decolonization highlighted a number of problems:
- Cities do not have information about the number of signs and plaques that should be changed when renaming toponyms and who is responsible for this process. Moreover: within the same city, district administrations may declare that the purchase of plaques was not carried out due to the lack of budget funds and claim that this is not their withing their powers (such as in the Dniprovskyi and Khortytskyi districts of Zaporizhzhia).
- Due to the lack of understanding of the real number of plaques and signs that need to be changed by city councils, city councils find it difficult to plan an adequate procurement transaction.
- Municipalities adopt decisions to rename toponyms and at the same time do not allocate funds for new address plaques, often appealing to resource savings.
The program shares the position that the support of the Defense Forces, the reconstruction of housing and critical infrastructure is the main priority of the authorities. However, we have all witnessed how cities, on the one hand, declare the lack of funds for the decolonization of objects, and, on the other hand, they conduct million-worth tenders that are not crucial in war conditions (landscaping, reconstruction of roads in residential areas, or advertising, for example).
Without solving these problems, the decolonization processes risk being reduced to “paper solutions” of the city council that do not have a practical dimension, while our streets and squares will continue carrying the enemy code. It is against this enemy that Ukrainian soldiers, at the cost of incredible efforts and heroism, take back every meter of land.
The responses of city councils to inquiries regarding procurement of address plaques and road signs can be viewed at the link.
The material was prepared in cooperation with journalists of the DOZORRO project (Transparency International Ukraine) Daryna Synytska and Yaroslav Pylypenko, communications manager of TI Ukraine Maryna Pavlenok; infographics were created by designer of TI Ukraine Oksana Umrysh.