The tender for the audit of the electronic declaration system, which is conducted by the National Agency for the Prevention of Corruption, contains discriminatory conditions, and documentation is drafted in order to employ the company controlled by SBU.
This was announced on December 4 at a press conference by representatives of anticorruption NGOs: Civic Lustration Committee (CLC), Transparency International Ukraine (TI), Anti-Corruption Action Center (AntAC) and the Reanimation Package of Reforms (RPR).
Anticorruption activists believe that NAPC intends to select pre-agreed auditors whose task is to destroy the Registry and get rid of electronic declarations.
According to experts, on November 27, the NAPC urgently announced a tender for conducting an audit of e-declaration system, the terms of which, in their opinion, indicate “the intention of the authorities to obtain a pre-determined conclusion and legitimize the decision to stop the work of the e-declaration system, and even to delegitimize already published declarations”.
According to Maksym Kostetskyi, the Transparency International Ukraine legal representative, the terms of the tender are discriminatory and contain signs of corruption. “Foreign companies are prohibited from taking part in the tender. Under its terms, participants should have access to state secrecy, which is defined by the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) list of companies. Conditions also provide for a less than a week time frame for submission of tender proposals”, — says Kostetskyi about the violation of the procurement procedure.
Such conditions, he claims, significantly limit the range of tenderers, which raises questions about the independence of auditors and the impartiality of audit results. By law, access to state secrecy is provided solely by the Security Service. So, activists say, “it is in fact SBU rather than NAPC that will be selecting the auditors”.
Kostetskyi draws attention to the fact that the NAPC deliberately estimated the cost of the audit at 199 000 UAH, because it is a before-threshold procurement and is not fully covered by the requirements of the law on public procurement.
Activists were calling for the independent expertise since the beginning of the year, explains Oleksandra Drik, CLC’s Head of the Board. “We demanded an independent audit in order to put an end to all manipulations on the quality of software, which, after transferring from international donors to the NAPC, was completely changed under the control of the SBU by the State Service for Special Communications and Information Protection. However, instead of an honest expert conclusion, we can get a prepared on Bankova street verdict on the unsuitability of the system of e-declarations. This can be used as a reason for disabling the Register of Declarations and starting the creation of a new one that will never be created”, – says Drik.
“The e-declaration system has been subject to discreditation campaigns over the last year, the task of which is to convince the public that the system is bad and a new one should be created, costing tens of millions of hryvnias. This may take years and deprive law enforcement from the possibility of using electronic declarations in the investigation of the illegal enrichment of high officials. That is why we need an independent expertise of the system”, — explains Drik. According to activists, a professional and unbiased assessment is possible only with the participation of foreign experts who can be trusted; but they are not even allowed to participate in the tender. That is precisely why, according to Drik, the NACP tender should be canceled and a new one announced – without discriminatory requirements.
The participants of the briefing noted that in the summer, the NACP made a decision on the audit of the system that was to be conducted together with the international partners of Ukraine. However, the Administrator of the Register – “controlled” by the Security Service of Ukraine State Service – refused to grant access to foreign experts.
Instead, the NACP announced an urgent and non-transparent tender with discriminatory conditions for participants that indicates that the audit will not be independent, and its purpose is to give a biased conclusion.
According to Anastasiya Krasnosilska, AntAC’s lawyer, in the event of an auditor’s conclusion that the e-declaration system is unsuitable or vulnerable, all investigations based on already submitted declarations will be in danger.
“In fact, after that, it will be impossible to prosecute any official or politician based on the illegal assets discovered through the declarations. At present, only NABU is investigating more than 80 cases of illegal enrichment or discrepancies in the declarations, two suspicions have been announced. After a negative audit conclusion, most of these cases will not have a future, and the Bureau will lose the mechanisms for investigating illegal enrichment or discrepancies in the declarations”, — said Krasnosilska.
According to the main expert of the Anticorruption Group of the Reanimation Package of reforms Oleksandr Lemenov, RPR has officially appealed to the NAPC’s Head Natalia Korchak, to cancel the tender and to ensure an independent and professional expertise of the e-declaration system with the participation of foreign experts.
We call on international partners of Ukraine to take a strong position on protection of the e-declaration system and address the government of Ukraine with request to conduct an independent audit of the e-declaration system involving foreign experts.