He­orhiy Tuka: "Lo­cal elec­tions in Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts were un­timely”

"Lo­cal elec­tions in Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts were un­timely"

The Ukrainian Week - - CONTENTS - In­ter­viewed by An­driy Holub

Deputy Min­is­ter of the Tem­po­rar­ily Oc­cu­pied Ter­ri­to­ries and IDPs on so­cial ben­e­fits, smug­gling across the con­tact line and block­ade

He­orhiy Tuka has been work­ing for nearly six months at the newly es­tab­lished Min­istry of Tem­po­rar­ily Oc­cu­pied Ter­ri­to­ries and IDPs. He told The Ukrainian Week about his thoughts on the con­flict over so­cial ben­e­fits be­tween the state and the IDPs and the cam­paign against il­le­gal traf­fick­ing across the con­tact line in the Don­bas.

The NGOs de­fend­ing the rights of the IDPs are se­ri­ously dis­sat­is­fied with the new pro­ce­dure for ob­tain­ing so­cial ben­e­fit pay­ments. What is your Min­istry's po­si­tion in this re­gard?

— I would like to point out that the IDPs regis­tra­tion and ben­e­fit pay­ments are the re­spon­si­bil­ity of the Min­istry of So­cial Pol­icy. Nev­er­the­less, I be­lieve the truth is some­where in the mid­dle. Any rad­i­cal views are mostly re­served for small groups. Of course, any of­fi­cial is a con­ser­va­tive to some ex­tent, and this is nor­mal. Very often, govern­ment of­fi­cials are con­cerned about the is­sues of sav­ing pub­lic funds. They know what state the bud­get is in. We aren’t rich. There­fore, they try to avoid ex­tra ex­pen­di­tures. Within their pow­ers and in line with the law.

Do you in­ter­fere in these is­sues at all?

— A per­son re­ceiv­ing com­pen­sa­tion from the state as an IDP (this refers to the lump-sum com­pen­sa­tion for IDPs, not pen­sions or other so­cial pay­ments – Ed.) may not stay in the un­con­trolled ter­ri­tory for more than 60 days. Whether or not an in­di­vid­ual has ex­ceeded this limit was pre­vi­ously de­ter­mined by the stamp of the State Mi­gra­tion Ser­vice. Now this has been can­celed. From day one, we've been try­ing to move away from any pa­per-based data car­ri­ers. All of this should be done elec­tron­i­cally. In par­tic­u­lar, ev­ery­one, an IDP or any­one else cross­ing the de­mar­ca­tion line, un­der­goes a uni­form ver­i­fi­ca­tion pro­ce­dure with the State Bor­der Ser­vice. And ev­ery­one should have their per­sonal per­mit num­ber is­sued by the SBU.

We pro­posed (and we can say that this pro­ce­dure is al­ready in beta) to au­to­mat­i­cally com­bine two data­bases: IDP data­bases of the Bor­der Guards and of the So­cial Pol­icy Min­istry. This will help record­ing where the cit­i­zens are and for how long they stay there. The ini­tia­tive was wel­comed by the NGOs, and the So­cial Pol­icy Min­istry has no ob­jec­tions. We hired some IT pro­fes­sion­als, who have ac­tu­ally com­pleted most of the work al­ready.

I be­lieve that the ob­jec­tions of some NGOs say­ing that peo­ple over­stay­ing on the un­con­trolled ter­ri­tory for over 60 days re­ceive no ben­e­fits are not quite ac­cu­rate. First of all, and this is crit­i­cal, the com­pen­sa­tions are only al­lo­cated to the in­ter­nally dis­placed per­sons, and not to all cit­i­zens liv­ing in the oc­cu­pied ter­ri­tory. The 60-day re­quire­ment is pre­scribed by the law. Nei­ther the Cab­i­net nor the Min­istry of So­cial Pol­icy has the right to break it. So, in this re­spect I fully sup­port the Min­istry of So­cial Pol­icy. There is a le­gal pro­vi­sion, and if you don't agree with it, you should ap­peal not to the state in­sti­tu­tions and their of­fi­cials, but to the au­thors of the bill: the MPs. How­ever, does some­one who lives in the oc­cu­pied ter­ri­tory and comes here only once in six months as an IDP?

NGOs also crit­i­cize the ha­bit­ual res­i­dence test. It in­volves pos­si­ble sur­prise in­spec­tions by special com­mis­sions ac­com­pa­nied by se­cu­rity forces to check whether an IDP lives at his or her stated place of res­i­dence.

— I have worked with many IDPs. At the early stage of the im­ple­men­ta­tion of the cur­rent pro­ce­dure, there re­ally were such ob­jec­tions. I would even call them not "ob­jec­tions," but "con­cerns." How­ever, I talked to the IDPs from var­i­ous ar­eas of com­pact set­tle­ment af­ter the process had been im­ple­mented. There might have been real prob­lems some­where, but I am not aware of them. Most of those to whom I have spo­ken see no prob­lem here. This was done be­cause the Min­istry of So­cial Pol­icy has a uni­form mech­a­nism of us­ing the so-called com­mis­sions that can gen­er­ally come to peo­ple's homes to find out where they are, who they are or whether they ex­ist. These are the com­mis­sions that over­see so­cial well-be­ing of the peo­ple who have been al­lo­cated state as­sis­tance: large fam­i­lies, and low-in­come cit­i­zens, etc. These have been the com­mis­sions used by the Min­istry for the ver­i­fi­ca­tion pro­ce­dure. In fact, the res­i­dence test was not one of their tasks. Their func­tion is to ac­tu­ally come and make sure that a per­son is there. That's it.

You have men­tioned the law. Some time ago you talked about the sit­u­a­tions when the trans­porta­tion of large car­goes across the de­mar­ca­tion line (which most peo­ple would call il­le­gal traf­fick­ing) does not for­mally break any laws. And you could do noth­ing about it as the Head of Luhansk Oblast. To­day you are in the Govern­ment, and the Cab­i­net has the right of leg­isla­tive ini­tia­tive. Are you work­ing to­day to­wards any changes in this area?

— First of all, let me tell you about the phe­nom­e­non of smug­gling in gen­eral. Like cor­rup­tion, it ex­ists in any

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