Independent analysts advise to change tactics of anti-corruption reform in Ukraine

The more the public and international donors put pressure on the Ukrainian elites concerning anti-corruption reforms, the more the latter stick together to confront these reforms. Chatham House advises to change tactics.

Over the past five years, Ukraine has been able to limit the opportunities for corruption, but failed to bring corrupt officials to justice. Corruption fighters and international donors have focused on the establishment of a High Anti-Corruption Court in Ukraine to provide the results of the activities of the National Anti-Corruption Bureau (NABU), which cannot conduct an investigation without bringing the case to the appropriate final – bringing to criminal responsibility for corruption crimes.

However, according to an independent analytical research “Are Ukraine’s Anti-corruption Reforms Working?” prepared by Chatham House, the Royal Institute of International Affairs, London, in conjunction with the EU Anti-Corruption Initiative in Ukraine (EUACI), the High Anti-Corruption Court itself will not affect the systemic causes of corruption.

This paper indicates that the Ukrainian elites are more likely to oppose the effective work of the anti-corruption court through sabotage or try to take it under control. “Anti-corruption court is needed, but it will not become a “silver bullet” for corrupt officials. I think that we will see that whoever becomes the next president of Ukraine, efforts will be made to reduce the capacity of this court,” Chatham House Leading Analyst John Lough said at the presentation of this research paper in Kyiv, on Wednesday, March 6.


Tactics of a split in the elites

At the same time, the experts who carried out research indicate that the High Anti-Corruption Court can play a key role in anti-corruption reform, if it focuses on the bringing of individual corrupt officials to justice. But, to support this, it is necessary to change the tactics of combating corruption. “Attack on the corrupt Ukrainian elites is further consolidating the latter. It is necessary to split these elites,” Volodymyr Dubrovskyi, one of the authors of Chatham House research, Senior Economist at the Center for Social and Economic Research CASE-Ukraine, explained to DW. He gives an example how united corrupt elites have achieved the recognition of the Criminal Code provisions on illicit enrichment as unconstitutional through the Constitutional Court. “Many of MPs who signed the submission to the Constitutional Court, voted for anti-corruption reform, but saw risks for themselves, united and achieved their goal,” Dubrovskyi says.

Volodymyr Dubrovskyi

He proposes to conclude a “peace pact” with some corrupt officials who are forced to participate in the corruption shady business of “senior officials”, which will guarantee them an amnesty in exchange for supporting anti-corruption reforms. “Of course, these people will lose their “sinecures”, but will save their fortunes. And this is a compromise that would allow to unlock the situation and quickly eliminate the prerequisites for corruption,” Dubrovskyi convinced. At the same time, he notes that this is not a popular solution to the problem, so it will be very difficult to implement it in Ukraine.


Recommendations for the future

In addition, the Chatham House report says that the demonopolization of politics and the economy, along with the gradual limitation of civil servants’ freedom of action and increased accountability, will contribute to a systemic change in the fight against corruption. Experts also believe that a fundamental reform of the judiciary is a priority for Ukraine. It is this reform that can significantly narrow the range of possibilities for corrupt officials. So far, not enough efforts have been made in this direction. The problem of judicial system’s political dependence  should be resolved as soon as possible.

Chatham House experts advised the international donors to set strict conditions for the ruling elite of Ukraine for further financial, economic and defense assistance. In particular, demand from the Ukrainian authorities a radical restructuring of the state fiscal service of Ukraine, improvement of the customs service efficiency, ensuring the transparency of the defense budget, the programme of reforming the system of management of state enterprises.

The full analytical report can be found by the link.


By Liliia Rzheutska

Source – DW