Anti-corruption NGOs announce setting up a coalition to check officials’ declarations

Anti-corruption NGOs announce setting up a coalition to check officials’ declarations
February 01, 2016.

Kyiv, February 1, 2016. Anti-corruption non-governmental organizations announced setting up a coalition to check Ukrainian officials’ financial declarations. The NGOs made this announcement at a press briefing at Ukraine Crisis Media Center, signing the corresponding memorandum on cooperation. “Processing declarations is one of the key priorities of our NGOs for this year. We will inspect government officials’ declarations of property, looking for evidence of corruption and discrepancies between their declared and actual property,” informed Oleksandra Drik, President of the NGO Civic Lustration Committee. According to her, public opinion in a recent survey was that NGOs are to become the main corruption fighters. At the same time, inspection of declarations of property is a powerful anti-corruption instrument, envisaged by lustration and anti-corruption legislation, said Drik. Nevertheless, activists believe that establishment of National Agency for Prevention of Corruption (NAPC) is being intentionally delayed. “Corruption in the government bodies will come to light as soon as this agency becomes operational” added Ms Drik.

Dmytro Chaplynskyi, main developer of “Kantseliarska Sotnia” (“The Clerical Hundred”) project, reminded that there is a civic register of declarations containing over 18 thousand declarations of top officials at present. They were digitized and published. According to him, this information is used for analytics and investigations, resulting in dismissals. Activists did a huge amount of work, so launching an electronic declaration system is extremely important, said Chaplynskyi. “If this new system is launched, we expect it to handle 500 – 800 declarations per year,” he predicted. Oleksii Khmara, executive director of Transparency International Ukraine, explained that the data from the civic register of declarations “are easily accessible and comparable with other open databases and registers. The possibility to compare one declaration with another is the most important, as this database of declarations works on a data collection basis,” stated Khmara.  At the same time, comparing these declarations with open registers (real estate register, vehicles register, businesses register etc) is important. Moreover, the executive director of Transparency International Ukraine said that from the beginning of this year the punishment for declaring false information will be two years in prison.

According to Tetiana Semiletko, Director of the NGO Media Law Institute, the coalition on inspection of declarations will be paying special attention to the access to declarations, making sure they are public, as well as content analysis and monitoring of the officials’ lifestyles. This means public activists will check “whether officials might conceal property, both their own and their relatives’, or obtain excessively expensive presents, prizes and profits, being a frequent practice, […] or, judges coming into inheritance of millions,” said Semiletko. Moreover, activists will be looking for gaps in the current legislation and respond efficiently. “These measures will allow increasing financial commitment and accountability of Ukrainian officials, cleansing the authorities from dishonest officials and providing efficient cooperation between the public and the corresponding anti-corruption agencies,” said Semiletko.

Viktor Taran, Head of the NGO Center for Political Studies and Analysis reminded that formation of electronic declarations has been postponed due to a certain amendment made in a draft law. “Though the President and the government promised to bring in a draft law to eliminate this case, neither the Cabinet of Ministers nor the Presidential Administration managed to file in the corresponding draft laws in over a month. We believe it means the authorities are willfully doing their best to sabotage electronic declaration this year,” said Taran.

In general, the new coalition aims at exerting public control over publication of declarations of property in official websites, as well as public analysis, supporting NAPC establishment and operation, developing resource and educational materials in order to involve the public in detecting corrupt officials, summarized Oleksandr Liemienov, co-founder of the NGO Center for Local Self-Government, manager of anti-corruption at the Reanimation Package of Reforms. “Our team is facing a simple, but important task –  to make it impossible for people found out in a property fraud to remain in their positions within a year,” said Iegor Sobolev, MP from Samopomich party, Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on Preventing and Combating Corruption.

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