On September 9, 2019, MPs of the Holos (“Voice”) party registered draft law No. 2090 “On Amendments to Legislative Acts Concerning Initiation of Reforms of the Ukrainian System of Special Agencies.”

According to the specialized law, the SBU is a special public law enforcement agency which ensures the national security of Ukraine. At the same time, the SBU structure still includes the so-called special units on fighting corruption and organized crime and counterintelligence protection of economy, which basically have the same function as other law enforcement agencies. These are the very units that eventually pressure businesses the most. 

What will change: 

  • special units of the SBU that work on terrorism counteraction and counterintelligence will be dissolved;
  • SBU investigative units will be prohibited from pretrial investigations, and operational units — from operational work concerning some economic and corruption-related crimes;
  • the total number of SBU officials will decrease from 27 to 24 thousand, and during the special period — from 31 to 28 thousand.

Our commentary:

Overall, the amendments proposed in draft law No. 2090 are the first long-awaited step towards an SBU reform. This will allow to make their work and the work of other law enforcement agencies much clearer.

Current Situation 

Under the Law of Ukraine “On the Security Service of Ukraine” (hereinafter SBU), the SBU is a special public law enforcement agency ensuring the national security of Ukraine.

The main tasks of the SBU include protection of the state sovereignty, constitutional order, territorial integrity, Ukraine’s economic, scientific and defense potential, the country’s legal interests and citizens’ rights from intelligence and sabotage of foreign special services, infringements committed by organizations, groups and individuals, as well as protection of the state secret.

At the same time, the SBU structure still includes the so-called special units on fighting corruption and organized crime and counterintelligence protection of economy, which basically have the same function as other law enforcement agencies. These are the very units that eventually pressure businesses the most. Absence of a clear division of powers, excessive staff, low effectiveness when it comes to primary tasks (counterintelligence and terrorism counteraction), interference with the activity of other law enforcement agency, dependence on the President — these and other problems have turned the SBU into a malleable law enforcement body.

TI Ukraine and other civil society representatives have reiterated multiple times that the SBU needs to be deprived of the function of economic crime counteraction, since this would prevent the Service from pressuring the business. What is more, this was one of the demands on the Agenda for Justice, which civil society organizations presented to political parties running for the Parliament in 2019. Most parties that are currently in the Parliament supported this idea.

SBU structure still includes the so-called special units on fighting corruption and organized crime and counterintelligence protection of economy, which basically have the same function as other law enforcement agencies. These are the very units that eventually pressure businesses the most. 

What is proposed: 

  • special units of the SBU that work on terrorism counteraction and counterintelligence will be dissolved;
  • SBU investigative units will be prohibited from pretrial investigations, and operational units — from operational work concerning some economic and corruption-related crimes;
  • the total number of SBU officials will decrease from 27 to 24 thousand, and during the special period — from 31 to 28 thousand.

Commentary:

SBU reform has been brought up multiple times during the last four years. International partners have been demanding this, the reform concept is contained in a number of approved national strategies.

Back in June 2018, when the Parliament was reviewing draft law “On the National Security of Ukraine,” the public actively advocated for provisions dissolving the aforementioned units. However, the final version did not reflect this demand. MPs of the previous convocation also attempted to lobby this (draft law No. 8057, never reached the voting stage).

Overall, the isolated changes proposed by draft law No. 2090 are the first long-awaited step in the reform of the Security Service of Ukraine, which will bring more clarity to the work of this and other law enforcement agencies. We are still waiting for creation of an agency which would focus on financial crimes — the relevant draft law has already been registered in the Parliament and identified by the President as urgent. The other crimes should be investigated by such fully capable agencies as the NABU, the SIB or the National Police.

The next step should be a systemic reform of the SBU. Dissolution of individual units does not resolve the problem of systemic interference of the SBU into economic activity. Their status and sheer number (even with reduced staff, the SBU would remain the biggest service compared to similar services abroad) would allow SBU officials to retain their questionable practices.

We need to start from scratch — by defining the role of the SBU and its place in the system of security agencies, as well as its status and purpose.

Overall, the isolated changes proposed by draft law No. 2090 are the first long-awaited step in the reform of the Security Service of Ukraine, which will bring more clarity to the work of this and other law enforcement agencies.

Legal analysis prepared by legal advisor of TI Ukraine Mariia Lysenko.

For reference:

Transparency International Ukraine (TI Ukraine) is an accredited chapter of the global movement Transparency International, taking a comprehensive approach to the development and implementation of reforms to reduce corruption. TI Ukraine has administered and provided the government such electronic systems as ProZorro, ProZorro.Sale, eHealth, and E-Data. Our other ongoing projects include the Transparent Cities Ranking and development of the DOZORRO community for control over public procurement.

For media inquiries: Olesia Koval, koval@ti-ukraine.org, 093-808-82-78.