Scandal plagues agency to prevent corruption
Since its formal creation in March 2015, the National Agency for Preventing Corruption has been scandal-ridden and has been repeatedly accused of failing to carry out any of its duties. The agency denies the accusations, presenting its achievements as a genuine anti-corruption reform. Here are some of the scandals that have dogged the agency:
• The NAPC was set up in 2015. However, civil society groups criticized the selection of the agency’s top officials, saying that the competition was rigged in favor of loyalists of President Petro Poroshenko and the People’s Front party. The groups sued the government over alleged procedural violations.
Oleksiy Horashchenkov, a Presidential Administration official accused by top NAPC official Hanna Solomatina of managing the NAPC behind the scenes, and Deputy Justice Minister Natalia Sevostianova, who has revealed extravagant wealth in her own asset declaration, are members of the commission that chose the NAPC’s leadership.
• In 2016 the NAPC and the State Service for Special Communications and Information Protection were repeatedly accused of delaying and sabotaging the launch of the e-declaration system – a claim that they denied. The system was finally launched in September, but initially failed to function.
• NAPC Chief Natalia Korchak has also faced criticism for awarding to herself bonuses worth about $20,000 in April to September 2016. Meanwhile, in February 2016 the agency started an investigation into former customs official Yulia Marushevska, an associate of ex-Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, over an $18 bonus.
• The Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) hid its asset declarations both from the public and the NAPC, claiming they were state secrets, in what critics saw an effort to hide corrupt wealth. NAPC officials gained access to these declarations only recently, and it is still not clear whether they can properly investigate them. Moreover, in April the declarations of more than 200 prosecutors and judges disappeared from the declaration register. The NAPC said that the measure was necessary to protect them as officials prosecuting and trying criminal cases. The e-declaration site has gone offline many times. Both the State Service for Special Communications and Information Protection, which runs the site, and the NAPC were accused by civic activists, including the chief of the Declarations Under Control watchdog, Sasha Drik, of intentionally taking it offline, as well as interfering with the e-declaration system for unknown purposes.
• Earlier this year the NAPC faced criticism for repeatedly delaying the completion of declaration checks. As of now, out of 1.5 million asset declarations, only 91 declaration checks have been completed.
The NAPC has also been slow to get access to government registers, which is necessary for declaration checks. In this case, both the NAPC and other state agencies were accused of sabotage, which they denied.
• Currently, declarations are being checked “in manual mode,” not automatically. The NAPC’s ex-Chief of Staff Ihor Tkachenko told the Kyiv Post that the “human factor” in manual declaration checks has a “non-objective” character and leaves room for manipulation. The agency has been accused by Tkachenko, Drik and others of constantly blocking since last year the introduction of an automatic system of declaration checks that would make it more objective and less politicized.
• The NAPC has so far failed to pursue cases against any major bureaucrats or politicians. The agency has found punishable violations only in several minor officials’ asset declarations, while claiming that not a single minister or top official had violated the asset declaration law. The NAPC said on Nov. 10 it had found seven criminal violations in the declarations it had checked. Some of the highest-ranking officials in whose declarations criminal violations were found include Yevhen Samoilenko, an ex-judge of Luhansk Oblast’s Krasny Luch city court, and Ruslan Trebushkin, mayor of the city of Pokrovsk in Donetsk Oblast.
• As a result of the scandals at the NAPC, top officials have been quitting the agency. Viktor Chumak, who was appointed to the NAPC’s collective leadership in 2015, refused to work, citing political pressure on the agency. Rouslan Riaboshapka, another member of the collective leadership, quit in June, saying the NAPC had been completely discredited due to its failure to check asset declarations, and called for the appointment of new leadership. In August Ruslan Radetsky, also a member of the collective leadership, resigned after a criminal case was opened against him. In recent months Tkachenko and top NAPC officials Serhiy Semin and Roman Smyk followed suit. Solomatina, head of the NAPC’s department for financial and lifestyle monitoring, first submitted her resignation but then withdrew it.