EU project helps city councils minimize corruption risks

Having a City Integrity Plan is not a legislative requirement. However, the desire of city councils for integrity can be achieved by taking these steps.

Five Ukrainian cities — Zhytomyr, Mariupol, Nikopol, Chervonohrad and Chernivtsi — assessed corruption risks with the assistance from external experts and developed, based on this assessment, their City Integrity Plans. At the same time, anticorruption law does not require city councils to assess and minimize corruption risks in their activity (the only exceptions are Kyiv and Sevastopol city councils). The question, therefore, is this: why would a city council need to make this assessment and approve a City Integrity Plan by a council session resolution?

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First of all, let’s find out what corruption risk assessment is

The notion of “corruption risk assessment” has appeared in the Ukrainian legislative framework in 2014 with the enactment of the Law of Ukraine on Preventing Corruption. This assessment must be done with regard to activity of agencies, institutions and organizations when preparing anticorruption programs which require endorsement by the National Agency for Corruption Prevention, and with regard to activity of legal entities (Articles 19 and 61 of the aforementioned Law).

The very notion and procedure of corruption risk assessment are defined in the Methodology of Assessing Corruption Risks in the Activity of Public Bodies approved by the Resolution 126 of the National Agency for Corruption Prevention of 02.12.2016. According to the Methodology, corruption risk assessment is the process of identifying, analyzing and assessing a corruption risk. At the same time, a corruption risk is defined as the probability of the occurrence of a corruption offense [1] or a corruption-related offense [2], which would adversely affect the achievement by a public body of its designated goals and objectives.

Therefore, the main purpose of this assessment is not to identify the instances of corruption in the activity of bodies of public administration or local self-government but to identify corruption risks, i.e., the probability of the commission of a corruption offense or a corruption-related offense.

Efficient management of corruption risks can be achieved by adopting an internal document which sets out effective measures aimed to minimize / eliminate these risks. For public authorities, institutions and organizations listed in Article 19 (1) of the Law of Ukraine on Preventing Corruption, this document is an anticorruption program. As for city councils, only those of Kyiv and Sevastopol are required to adopt an anticorruption program; the rest are not obliged to have this program. That’s why Zhytomyr, Mariupol, Nikopol, Chervonohrad and Chernivtsi city councils decided to develop an own local document called City Integrity Plan.

What is a City Integrity Plan?

A City Integrity Plan is a city council document aimed at ensuring effective combating and prevention of corruption and based on an assessment of corruption risks in the activity of the city council and its executive bodies.

A Plan sets out concrete measures of minimizing / eliminating corruption risks, defines the persons responsible for implementation of these measures, implementation deadlines, resources required to implement these measures, and expected results (fulfillment indicators).

To develop a Plan, city councils established working groups comprised of not only members and officials of the city council but also public activists and independent experts. From among the officials of a body of local self-government, representatives of subdivisions where the assessment was made and representatives of the accounting department were always included to these working groups.

Does a City Integrity Plan need to be approved every year?

A City Integrity Plan is a strategic document of a body of local self-government, and therefore, it was developed by a working group and approved by the city council for a several-year period. Every body of local self-government decided on their own Plan implementation period (usually, it was 2-3 years).

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Is there a mechanism of monitoring and evaluating the implementation of a Plan?

The effectiveness of the management of corruption risks identified in the activity of a body of local self-government depends not only on development and approval of a Plan but also on the quality of its implementation. That’s why the city council and its executive bodies monitor and evaluate accomplishment of the Plan’s objectives.

The process of monitoring the implementation of a Plan includes regular checks of the progress in implementing measures aimed at minimizing / eliminating corruption risks identified in the activity of a body of local self-government. The results of monitoring are reported to the city mayor on a quarterly basis.

The implementation of a Plan is evaluated by a commission whose members are approved by a city mayor’s directive. This commission is comprised of representatives of council factions and member groups, officials of the council’s executive bodies and representatives of nongovernmental organizations. It is important that persons responsible for implementing measures aimed at minimizing / eliminating corruption risks identified in the activity of the city council and its executive bodies cannot become members of the commission.

The commission has the following powers: first of all, it evaluates the effectiveness of measures taken to minimize / eliminate corruption risks identified in the activity of the body of local self-government and the results achieved by these measures, and formulates (if applicable) generalized proposals concerning revision or amendment of the Plan. Based on evaluation results, the commission submits to the city mayor, on an annual basis, a report which is then heard at a session of the city council.

Can a Plan be amended?

Yes, but before that, a list of reasons for amending the City Integrity Plan must be defined in it. These reasons may include, in particular:

  • results of monitoring and evaluating the Plan’s implementation;
  • procedural and staffing changes in the city council and its executive bodies;
  • legislative changes.

Revision or amendment of the Plan may be initiated by the city mayor, implementers of measures envisaged by the Plan, members of the city council and the commission evaluating implementation of the Plan.

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What difficulties may the city council face when assessing corruption risks and preparing an Integrity Plan?

  • Frequent legislative changes. Ukrainian legislation has a quite dynamic framework: during the past six months alone, the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine passed almost 160 new laws. Changes were also made, in particular, in a number of laws which regulate bodies of local self-government. From the time of assessing corruption risks and preparing City Integrity Plans (i.e., over the period of two months), the parliament passed the Law of Ukraine amending the Law of Ukraine on Public Procurements and certain other legislative acts of Ukraine to improve public procurements, and the Law of Ukraine on the Lease of State-Owned and Communal Property. As a result, certain expert recommendations concerning management of identified corruption risks have become obsolete or failed to accommodate provisions of the newly-adopted laws.
  • Unwillingness to change / create new preventive mechanisms. Officials of bodies of local self-government often tend to believe that certain situations will simply not occur in their work or, if they will, they will be able to deal with these situations using the “customary law”. It should be stressed in this regard that the absence of uniform procedures and equal rules of the game creates breeding conditions for corruption offenses or corruption-related offenses. That’s why “tone at the top” – demonstration by the city council’s senior officials of the readiness to make changes, implement new procedures and effective mechanisms aimed to minimize / eliminate identified corruption risks – is extremely important.
  • The community’s response: “So, there’s surely something to dig for”. Having started an assessment of corruption risks at the city council, one should remember that not everyone in the community will correctly understand its purpose. One has to be prepared that some residents of the city could perceive it as irrefutable proof of the existence of corruption schemes at the body of local self-government. Therefore, it is extremely important to do explanatory work in the community, covering the main purpose of assessing corruption risks in the city council’s activity and preparing, on the basis of this assessment, a City Integrity Plan. And that’s where the next question comes.

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Why would a city need an Integrity Plan?

First of all, it is worth pointing out that the approval of an Integrity Plan gives the city council numerous advantages, the most important of which are the following:

  • eliminating / minimizing corruption risks in the activity of the city council and its executive bodies, identified in the course of assessment;
  • enhancing the capability of the body of local self-government when developing and implementing effective e-governance mechanisms;
  • increasing public trust in the bodies of local self-government, and engaging the public in the process of making decisions by local authorities;
  • increasing the transparency and accountability of the body of local self-government.

As of today, assessment of corruption risks and development of City Integrity Plans is not a legislative requirement for local councils, and of course, it is not a remedy against corruption on location. However, the desire of city councils for integrity, greater transparency and openness can be achieved thanks to these seemingly small steps. And it remains up to the city to decide whether to take these steps or not.

For your information: the Cities of Integrity project is implemented by the EU Anticorruption Initiative (EUACI) Ukraine in the partnership with the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) Ukraine, and financed by the European Commission and the Foreign Ministry of Denmark.

 [1] Corruption offense: an act containing signs of corruption and committed by a person mentioned in Article 3 (1) of the Law of Ukraine on Preventing Corruption, which entails criminal, disciplinary and/or civil liability under Ukrainian law (Article 1 (1) of the Law of Ukraine on Preventing Corruption).

[2] Corruption-related offense: an act not containing signs of corruption but violating requirements, prohibitions or restrictions established by the Law of Ukraine on Preventing Corruption, committed by a person mentioned in Article 3 (1) of the said Law and which entails criminal, disciplinary and/or civil liability under Ukrainian law (Article 1 (1) of the Law of Ukraine on Preventing Corruption).

By Anastasia Korobai, Anticorruption Policy Specialist of the United Nations Development Program

Source: Liga.News