The Ukrainian parliament voted for mandatory electronic declaration of property for public officials, but fell short of supporting IMF-required open transparency, preferring to keep their wealth secret from journalists and the general public.
On Tuesday, Sept. 5, the 329 deputies supported the law that requires mandatory wealth declaration by officials, but also decided to keep the declarations hidden from public scrutiny.
The document regulates the submission of declarations during martial law. With the beginning of the full-scale invasion of Russia into Ukraine in 2022, a decision was made to cancel the declaration for the safety of these officials in the outlying regions.
According to Kyiv Post sources in the National Agency on Corruption Prevention (NACP), before the attack, the Russians used open databases of declarations to collect information about local authorities.
Prior to martial law, all persons authorized to perform the functions of the state or local self-government (people's deputies, regional deputies, judges, customs officers, etc.) had been required by law to comply with Ukraine’s wealth declaration mandates, but the full-scale invasion put those mandates on hold for alleged safety reasons.
But since that mandate was lifted, the IMF’s memorandum and its accompanying $15.6 billion loan for rebuilding the country’s infrastructure requires the resumption of the declaration process.
“Without having to declare their various incomes, corrupt officials can conceal their assets,” said Oleksandr Novikov, the head of the NACP, in an interview with Kyiv Post.
Scandals arose. Despite calls from the public, the deputies did not support the norm on the publicity of the Unified Register of Declarations.
This would keep the information out of the public eye, ostensibly keeping officials from any scrutiny. Only two agencies would be able to check the authenticity of the provided information – the NACP and the National Anti-Corruption Bureau (NABU).
The head of the president’s Servant of the People party, David Arakhamia, said that the register will be closed for only one year. “We made a rule according to which the declarant can voluntarily open his declaration to all people, not only to the bodies that check,” he said.
According to him, the rule about non-publicity of the register arose at the request of declarants living in the front-line territories, whose relatives may be in danger, which is why such a hybrid format of declaration arose. “This in no way prevents the authorized inspection bodies from performing their work,” the politician believes.
The public at large did not accept this rationale. The Anti-Corruption Center claims that “these changes will not allow the government give information to the public and journalists. This is critical in wartime, given all the apartment scandals, foreign homes, and expensive cars we've seen during [Russia’s invasion].”
Minister of Justice Denys Malyuska says that the international partners didn’t demand that Ukraine open the register to the public: “There is no provision in the memorandum about the publicity of the register, the international partners did not insist on this.”
According to Malyuska, there was also no criticism of this from the G7 ambassadors. They said that it is important to “minimize security exceptions, including on publication, to those directly involved in defending.”
A Deputy from the Voice party Yaroslav Zheleznyak still believes that the IMF will not consider the new law as fulfilling its requirement, especially since the deputies who would be most exposed did not support the public availability of the register.
Some members of the public are already calling on Zelensky to veto the law as passed in its current form without public transparency.
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