Standoff over selection of the auditor for the National Anticorruption Bureau

Standoff over selection of the auditor for the National Anticorruption Bureau

National Anticorruption Bureau (NABU) and the audit. NABU is one of the few anticorruption agencies in Ukraine that may become an efficient tool in the fight against corruption. NABU has already proved its efficiency by detaining the Head of the Fiscal Service Roman Nasirov. Last week the Verkhovna Rada (Ukraine’s Parliament) started debates regarding a candidate for the position of the NABU auditor. Apart from the Rada, the government and the President have their respective quotas to select the auditors. Audit is one of the few mechanisms that may result in removal from the office of the incumbent NABU Head Artem Sytnyk.

What the standoff is about? On February 23, the Head of the Anticorruption Committee, MP Yegor Soboliev officially suggested a candidate for the post, US lawyer Robert Storch. Storch was selected as NABU auditor through the official competition. However, all of a sudden at the parliamentary session on the same day factions Narodnyi Front and Petro Poroshenko Bloc suggested UK citizen Nigel Brown, who had not taken part in the selection.    

Who are the candidates? Robert Storch, the winner of the competition, is Deputy Inspector General at the US Department of Justice, Office of the Inspector General. Nigel Brown is a private investigator in the UK.

Concerns. Expert community, as well as part of the MPs, raise concerns about the parliamentary coalition lobbying their candidate, Nigel Brown. They say the ultimate goal may be assessment of the NABU work as unsatisfactory and removal of the agency’s head from the office. Brown has not been yet granted any tools or access to the materials, however he has already evaluated the NABU’s work as “mediocre”. Experts consider it being an attempt to impede the work of the NABU.

Protests within the expert and international community. Experts of the Anticorruption Action Center conducted an investigation to discover that Nigel Brown was charged with an attempt of bribing a policeman. Moreover, the company he worked for was receiving money from offshore entities of Russian oligarchs Berezovsky and Khodorkovsky. At the same time the US and EU Ambassadors to Ukraine insist that the procedure to form the auditors’ commission needs to be transparent. Thus, Head of the Delegation of the European Union to Ukraine Hug Mingarelli spoke in support of Storch as the candidate earlier recommended by the Anticorruption Committee of the Parliament.

Next steps. Parliamentary Anticorruption Committee met three times to designate the auditor. However, the final and legitimate decision has not been made yet. The next meeting of the committee is scheduled for March 29. Auditor selection is on the agenda.