Kyiv, June 17, 2016 – The National Agency for the Prevention of Corruption (NAPC) should work according to a clear algorithm to control financing of political parties. It should have clearly set rules and procedures for both political parties and each entity of control. The best international practices can serve as a basis. This opinion was expressed by NAPC representatives, international experts and public activists at a press briefing at Ukraine Crisis Media Center.
Georgian experience can be especially valuable for Ukraine since Georgia has already successfully implemented the system of financing political parties from the budget, and worked out a mechanism to control their income; taking into account the recommendations of experts from the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES). The Ukrainian delegation has just returned from a working trip, during which Georgian colleagues shared their experiences. Denys Kovryzhenko, legal advisor, International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES), reported that the State Audit Office exercises control in cooperation with the public. “They have learned to monitor even cash forms of bribing voters – such as banquets, held by a certain political party. Bribery involves criminal liability, so reports do not mention such expenditures. However, if such information appeared in the media – the Office would conduct an investigation, determine the price of the goods, and impose penalties,” said the expert. He added that the Office has a special department that tracks such reports in the media. Mr. Kovryzhenko noted, that all these measures gradually raise political culture, but “violations occur constantly,” so the system is still improving. “They [the Office] are just finishing the preparation of an electronic reporting form, and they advised us what we should take into account when analyzing the report,” said Natalia Korchak, head of the National Agency for Prevention of Corruption.
Mr. Kovryzhenko said that IFES promised to give Ukraine instructions on all procedures so the country is able develop similar procedures for NAPC on this basis. “These procedures are a description of the Agency’s basic methods- from how the mail comes to how it is recorded, and ending the use of administrative penalties – who makes records, how the State Audit Office’s interests are represented in court or how to gain access to private information which is banking secrecy,” said Mr. Kovryzhenko. “There is also international methodology for evaluating contributions in kind – premises and other movable and immovable property. They promised to give that to us as well.
“Czech experts for their part unanimously approved the decision of Ukraine to introduce state financing of parties.” Transparent and open financing of political parties is one of the key democratic principles that ensures free political competition. The parties with non-transparent financing and dependance on various profiteering methods will not manage to properly run the country,” stressed Ivan Počuch, Ambassador of the Czech Republic in Ukraine. He added that a new political culture is formed over a very long period, and this process persists in post-Soviet countries in Europe. Vit Simral, Czech expert, PhD, noted that the Czech Republic still needs to fill “gaps” in legislation. During the recent elections, for example, a problem arose with people, who on their own initiative, installed billboards in support of certain political forces. “We are now preparing a new reform: third parties who wish to install billboards in support of the candidate will have a certain financial limit and will need to be registered. If they are not registered, such billboards will be removed,” he informed. “The main thing is to change legislation constantly in order to see what normally works. You will also manage to do this, revealing the main channels through which the shadow money comes.”
Natalia Korchak noted that at the first stages of its activities the Agency will focus on prevention and explanatory work. The foreign experts stressed the same. “It is important that the Agency should not only control the political parties, but also teach them by providing methodological support in the reporting process as a whole and in common things, for example, filling out declarations and so on,” noted Vit Simral. The NAPC head urged political parties to try and fill in the available declaration form to understand how the whole system works.
Currently, it is very important that NAPC should establish coordination with the Pension Fund and Public Insurance Fund. This is required to identify figureheads, who are used to hide the real sponsors. “One-time payment from an individual cannot exceed 400 minimum wages and that from legal entities – 800 minimum wages. And if it turns out that a pensioner has made such a contribution, the question will arise as to the origin of these funds,” Natalia Korchak reminded. “All contributions will be in cash, because banks will have all the information about the person who places money on account of the party. Accordingly, we will monitor this through the reports and will to be able to verify the information from the bank, if necessary,” explained Oleg Sytnyk.
The NAPC head stressed that transparency is very important for public confidence in the Agency. In consideration of this, NAPC conclusions based on declarations from the parties and the public will be publicly available. Natalia Korchak also urged concerned citizens to join the process of verification of declarations submitted by political parties. She explained that the mere form of the report consists of 72 pages. So, the big parties with branched structures will have reports consisting of hundreds of pages. “The public’s help is extremely important for us, because we are physically not able to check everything,” she emphasized.