The Kyiv Post could not find any declarations on the system’s website on Sept. 2. Many users were unable to see the website at all due to its security settings.
All the public officials are required to upload their asset declarations to the new system before Oct. 31, but right now the uploading is impossible.
“This is effectively a complete failure of the system,” said Ruslan Riaboshapka, a reformist official at the National Agency for Preventing Corruption, which manages the e-declaration system.
Electronic declarations are seen as a key anti-graft tool. They will better reflect officials’ wealth than current declarations. Also, criminal penalties will be introduced for lying in a declaration. Ukrainian authorities have tried to delay and emasculate electronic declarations ever since a law on them was passed in 2014, critics say.
If Ukraine fails to properly launch the electronic declarations, the International Monetary Fund and the European Union might refuse to disburse $3 billion and 1.2 billion euros to Ukraine this year. Ukrainian authorities’ inability to fulfill their international obligations may also disrupt the introduction of a visa-free regime with the EU.
Software and sabotage
Critics blamed the failure on the anti-graft agency’s technical partner, the State Service for Government Communications, and say that it could have been caused by either incompetency or a deliberate attempt to derail the system.
The service apparently changed the software of the e-declaration system before the launch, dropping the previously installed version. The service did not reply to a request for comment.
Initially the software for the declaration system was produced by software developer Miranda, but before the launch it was replaced by different software, according to Yuriy Novikov, CEO of Miranda.
“I don’t know where (the new software) came from,” Novikov told the Kyiv Post. “It doesn’t work. Apparently the State Service for Government Communications was unhappy with the system that worked if they decided to put up a dysfunctional system.”
Leonid Yevdochenko, head of the State Service for Government Communications, said on Aug. 31 that Miranda had been banned from servicing the system and that his agency would tackle the electronic declarations in-house.
The service is trying to take the declaration system under its control and will be able to interfere with and change declarations, Riaboshapka told the Kyiv Post.
The service’s moves undermine the independence of the anti-graft agency, he argued.
More fighting ahead
Even if the technical problems are solved and the e-declaration system works, corrupt officials are hardly going to immediately come clean, revealing all their assets, activists said.
Lawmaker Vadym Denysenko, presidential deputy chief of staff Dmytro Shymkiv and Justice Minister Pavlo Petrenko have proposed amending the electronic declaration law in what some see as another attempt to sabotage it.
This fall the Verkhovna Rada will try to block electronic declarations by limiting public access to the system, enabling officials not to include their relatives’ property, limiting officials’ criminal responsibility for lying in declarations and exempting from criminal liability those who pay a 5 percent tax on declared wealth, Vitaly Shabunin, head of the Anti-Corruption Action Center’s executive board, wrote on his blog on Aug. 31.
“They’re trying to kill the system this way,” Riaboshapka said. “They have already tried to postpone and kill it several times.”
Public needs to help
According to Oleksandra Drik, head of the non-government Civic Lustration Committee, authorities will keep trying to sabotage the system.
Yegor Sobolev, Ukrainian lawmaker from the Samopomich faction and head of the parliamentary anti-corruption committee, said that many of the corrupt public officials will try to hide their assets by turning their relatives into proxy owners of their houses and cars.
He said that officials won’t willingly implement anti-graft legislation, so the public needs to watch the declarations closely.
“(The declaration system is intended) for activists, journalists and conscious people who understand that nobody but them will get rid of corrupt officials living in their neighborhoods,” he said at a press conference on Sept. 2.
To arm the public in their struggle with the corrupt officials, the Civic Lustration Committee launched another service for reporting corruption on its website www.lku.org.ua. It’s a special online form that allows to report a discrepancy between the official’s declaration and their lifestyle.
The form includes links to official open property registers so that users can verify information before filing a report.
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