Ukraine assures Western backers on efforts to implement anti-corruption e-declaration system

Ukraine assures Western backers on efforts to implement anti-corruption e-declaration system
By bne IntelliNews August 18, 2016

The Ukrainian leadership have moved to reassure the country’s Western backers about its efforts to launch at the end of August the electronic system of income declaration by state officials. The move follows Kyiv’s failure to receive proper data protection certification for the system, which has sparked criticism from anti-corruption activists.

On August 16, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin assured a US congressional delegation visiting Kyiv that the Ukrainian government intends to correct any faults in the electronic asset declaration system by the end of the month, US Senator Christopher Coons related, according to the UNIAN news agency.

The National Agency for Prevention of Corruption (NAPC) announced it had launched the system, which is aimed at preventing graft by government officials, as of August 15. However, the system has failed to receive proper data protection certification, raising questions about its legal validity. Civil rights activists have accused the government of an intentional "fake launch", making it possible for civil servants to avoid being held liable for providing false information about their property and other assets.

“State officials have been resisting anti-corruption reforms, which is natural at the local level. But resistance should not be the case with the top leadership, as is being alleged by NGO experts and civic activists,” Zenon Zawada of the Kyiv-based brokerage Concorde Capital believes. “The politicians who cast themselves as pro-Western are at odds with Western officials and the Ukrainian public, which wants an accelerated pace of reforms.”

Adding to the cynicism among people, Ukrainian Interior Minister Arsen Avakov and Justice Minister Pavlo Petrenko said on August 16 that they won’t submit their declarations until the errors are fixed. The next day, chief of the State Fiscal Service of Ukraine, Roman Nasirov, said that he will submit his e-declaration in September after the security of the system is improved.

Meanwhile, the EU delegation to Ukraine and the embassies of EU member states in Kyiv issued a joint statement on August 17 saying the system has not been properly certified and therefore falls short of creating the key legal consequences that the submission of a false declaration should entail. “An e-declaration system in test-mode therefore makes little sense and might actually be counterproductive,” the statement read.

According to European diplomats, claims by Ukrainian officials that technical deficiencies are behind the failed issuance of a timely certificate are in contrast to public statements by the United Nations Development Progremme (UNDP) and “other reliable experts”, which “clearly underline that the system is fully in line with international standards and can be used to collect and publish declarations in an entirely legal way already at this stage”.

“These are the tasks that the NAPC needs to fulfil as of now,” according to the statement.

“The most hopeful resolution we see to this conflict is the formation of a strong pro-Western reform political party that would earn a large faction in the next parliamentary elections, which are scheduled for 2018,” Zawada wrote in a research note on August 17. “Otherwise, we expect this game of Ukrainian officials stalling on public demands for reform can drag on for many more years.”