On September 7, the President of Ukraine stated that implementation of electronic declaration for public activists was a mistake and called on the Verkhovna Rada to adopt his draft laws that cancel the mandatory electronic declaration for participants of any anticorruption activities and, at the same time, introduce discriminatory rules of public reporting to non-governmental organizations and their contractors (draft laws No. 6674 and No. 6675).
Experts of the Reanimation Package of Reforms state that the lack of publicity and involvement of stakeholders in the development of these draft laws led to significant shortcomings that should be urgently eliminated.
Convention of the Coordinating Council for Development of Civil Society under the President of Ukraine, dedicated to the discussion of registered draft laws, became a positive step. At this Council, representatives of civil society organizations expressed their concerns and agreed on a joint work with the Presidential Administration, aimed at further elaboration of these issues. At the same time, the Coordinating Council did not reach an agreement on specific deadlines for preparation and adoption of the draft laws, and hence there is a risk that the current provisions on electronic declaration of a wide range of civic activists and contractors of NGOs will come into force on January 1, 2018.
Introduction of public reporting is quite a universal tendency of time that should apply to all legal entities. By generally supporting the idea of increasing transparency of non-profit sector, Reanimation Package of Reforms experts underline that suggested draft laws contain a number of provisions that contradict national and international legislation, are discriminatory and consequently should be withdrawn taking into account the following proposals:
- Provisions of submitted draft laws apply exclusively to non-governmental organizations (NGOs), while its reasoning relates to the non-profit status as a whole, therefore the provisions suggested should apply without discrimination to all legal entities under the non-profit status, including professional and creative unions, charitable foundations, political parties etc. (the number of those registered is three times higher than of NGOs). There are no grounds for imposing extra requirements associated with nonprofit status exclusively to non-governmental organizations.
- The draft laws suggest the introduction of a new (additional) form of reporting to be submitted to tax authorities in addition (not as a replacement) to existing reporting formats. In terms of content, this report duplicates the main part of information that is currently submitted by civic organizations to relevant state authorities and registries. Instead, RPR experts suggest to unify reporting and get rid of its ungrounded duplication.
- The obligation of private entrepreneurs (PEs) to publicly report on contracts with international donors in a specific form, and application of sanctions through a transfer from simplified taxation system to the general one in case of submitting incomplete information creates more burdensome conditions for such private entrepreneurs than those envisaged for other subjects of taxation, for example, legal entities, as well as other PEs. The experts suggest removing this provision as discriminatory.
- Deprivation of the non-profit status of civic organizations with a total annual income of more than 300 minimum living wages, if those organizations have not submitted or published an annual financial report with a complete list of mandatory information, is an excessive discretionary sanction that will lead to abuse by controlling authorities. The public suggests that the deprivation of non-profit status should be the last resort measure of punishment carried out on the basis of court judgment. Instead, it is worth providing possibilities to eliminate shortcomings identified in reporting, as well as to apply interim sanctions – warning and penalty, as provided in the legislation that regulates reporting requirements for other legal entities. Moreover, the proposed threshold of 300 minimum living wages contradicts best international practices and Common Guiding Principles of OSCE ODIHR and Venice Commission on Freedom of Associations which presume that reporting of civic organizations should not be burdensome and should comply with the size and the scope of their activities. For this reason, RPR experts propose introducing additional reporting only for those NGOs that have received more than 1000 minimum living wages during the year.
- The requirement to indicate in a public report information about all private individuals (including PEs) and legal entities with whom an NGO concludes agreements with an annual amount of expenditures of more than 50 minimum living wages, and to indicate the list of ten employees with the highest salary rates, is not only a discriminatory obligation for the listed categories of individuals, but also violates the Law of Ukraine “On personal data protection”. This requirement is absolutely inconsistent with both the national legislation regulating the reporting of any legal entities and international NGOs’ reporting standards. There is no analogue of such a provision neither in Europe, nor even in CIS. Such a legislative novelty creates excessive risks, in particular for civic organizations implementing human rights activities in the occupied Crimea and certain districts of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts and their beneficiaries. The public suggests withdrawing this provision as such that poses a threat to personal safety of internally-displaced persons, volunteers and persons living in the occupied territories.
Taking all above said into account, experts of the Reanimation Package of Reforms call on the President of Ukraine and the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine to eliminate the discriminatory provisions of the draft laws No. 6674 and No. 6675 in joint cooperation with the public and to adopt them as soon as possible, having taken into consideration proposals of the civil society.