How to tackle corruption? “Start with imprisonment of three of your friends. You definitely know what for, they know what for, and the people will believe you.” Such an anti-corruption recipe was introduced by Lee Kuan Yew, the creator of the Singaporean wonder, and was widely quoted by Petro Poroshenko since his election as the President of Ukraine. No doubt, the Singaporean Prime Minister was more than successful in his struggle against corruption despite all the critics that surrounded his actions. But the $64,000 question is whether Ukrainian authorities will be able and willing to start fighting corruption that is so deeply rooted in governmental offices?
Current state of affairs
Corruption is a serious disease of Ukrainian society as it affects every sphere of everyday life. In 2014 Transparency International ranked Ukraine 142nd in its Corruption Perceptions Index out of the 175 countries investigated. This is the worst number in all of Europe as well as in Ukrainian history. In times of Viktor Yanukovych, corruption schemes have reached its very peak. Every business being more or less successful was forced to pay bribes in order to be able to function. Every person that needed help or service from health care institutions or administrative bodies had to pay a bribe and who knows, perhaps, if nothing had changed, “bribes” could have become one of the cost items in the budget of an ordinary Ukrainian household. Thankfully, after Maidan and Yanukovych’s escape the hope for a better future without corruption became not as distant as it used to be. According to the statistics, Ukrainians mostly feel skeptical about the fact that high-level authorities may start a serious anti-corruption campaign, judging a person suspected in taking a bribe by the principles of justice and equality, and not by family connections or ties. However, it is obvious that society is ready to stand up against corruption due to the recent events in Ukraine, because not paying much attention to this problem will mean threating the existence of Ukraine as a state.
The abovementioned documents are intended to create a completely new anti-corruption system and, more importantly, to establish specific monitoring mechanisms to assess effectiveness of the taken measures. Let us briefly analyze each of them:
- The first document indicated above is aimed at laying a foundation of anticorruption reforms and setting deadlines for their implementation.
- The second forms a legal basis for the establishment of the National Anticorruption Bureau of Ukraine (the ACB), a state law-enforcement body with the main function of fighting corruption among top officials.
- The third defines the legal and organizational framework for the application of preventive anti-corruption measures.
- Finally, the fourth legal act establishes a mechanism for determination of an ultimate beneficiary of the legal entity.
In fact, the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine has also recently created the National Commission for the Prevention of Corruption, which together with the ACB will be one of the main executors of state anti-corruption policy with the competence of monitoring the officials’ lifestyles. The directions of reforms set out in the Anti-corruption Strategy are extremely vital because general effectiveness will depend on each of them in particular. Those directions are the formation and implementation of state anti-corruption policy, preventive measures against corruption, and penalties for corruption. The scope of the first direction covers the so-called four pillars that will contribute to the overall struggle: an anti-corruption coordinating body (the ACB), assessment mechanism of corruption level, implementation of international standards and conduction of informatory campaigns. Those pillars will become the main tools with which the Government plans to develop an effective anti-corruption system. Under the second direction, reforms are required in six main spheres: public governmental bodies, public service, executive power bodies, public procurement sector, judiciary and private sector. Those areas are considered to be the most corrupt and thus require a comprehensive and complex reform approach.
The main issue with public governmental bodies is the election legislature and funding of political parties. It is obvious that the parties funded by the oligarchs will represent their interests and not the interests of the people who vote for them. Considering Ukrainian reality it is extremely important to restart financing political parties at budget expense but under strict conditions in order to avoid unreasonable burden on the taxpayers. The main issue in public service is that usually the lifestyles of public servants do not correspond to their incomes. In this regard, the Government must develop an electronic system for the declaration of public officials’ property, incomes and expenses and conduct control over them. Procurement is where Ukraine loses more than 1,5 million dollars every day due to the absence of the effective reforms. The electronic procurement system is of extreme importance for the economic growth of the country and its development should become one of the main points on the agenda for the Government.
All anti-corruption reforms depend on the reform of the judiciary because of the courts’ key role in finding a person accused of corruption guilty. However, there is a thin line between diminishing the scope of judges’ immunities and still preserving the independence and impartiality of the courts. The private sector has many times called upon the deregulation of national economy but it did not manage to succeed. Now it has a unique chance to reach this goal after the years of struggle. But deregulation should not mean the complete abolition of all regulatory procedures. No doubt that some of them may be terminated, but others not. For instance, a person who owns a restaurant is more than interested in keeping the fire safety on a decent level in order to have a stable income source, but does not need any state body to constantly inspect it. On other hand, while this person would not be harmed by sacrificing the food quality, it may well have a serious impact on people’s health, and it is precisely here where a state should conduct an effective control.
Is there a chance of success?
The Ukrainian Government has already started shaping and pursuing anti-corruption reforms by adopting the said legislation and establishing new governmental bodies. Nevertheless, those efforts showed only its willingness to move towards reforms, and the real anti-corruption actions are still not observed. Recent undue delays in the appointment of the Head of the ACB contribute to the social discontent within the country and to the rise of pessimism in the Western countries. Moreover, the recent events around “Ukrnafta” showed that the clash of interests between the state and oligarchs is an urgent issue that Ukraine will have to overcome for its rebirth. The main aspect in developing and implementing anti-corruption policy is to start from scratch and try to eliminate the human factor in those spheres where it is possible. Although, the question whether the President’s election slogan “live in a new way” will become a reality in the terms of anti-corruption war remains open, at least until the end of this year.