In 2017, the Concept for reforming the system of state supervision (control) in the field of environmental protection was adopted to address the issues of environmental protection in Ukraine and the implementation of this reform was initiated.
Today, environmental control is inoperative, ineffective, corrupted and is used to exert pressure on businesses. However, the actual reform does not solve these and other problems of environmental control, and instead worsens the situation. Experts of the RPR Environmental Protection Team point out the main drawbacks:
- Instead of changing the control procedure and eliminating corruption risks that hamper the high-quality environmental protection, the Ministry of Ecology and Natural Resources of Ukraine focuses the reform on changing the name and structure of the controlling body.
- Instead of the State Ecological Inspection (SEI), the reform envisages the establishment of an environmental service, a body whose main task is to provide administrative services rather than monitor compliance with environmental regulations.
- Part of the controlling authority, in particular in the area of the nature reserve fund, should be assigned to local self-government bodies. As a result, disposal of natural resources and control of such disposal is exercised by one body, which will not allow for real environmental protection on the ground and create new corruption risks.
- The reform is implemented inconsistently. Instead of abolishing the SEI and creating a new body with interregional subdivisions, as envisaged by the Concept, district territorial bodies were created in the SEI and a new provision on SEI was adopted.
- The reform does not eliminate corruption risks. To ensure system transparency, control and supervision functions should be delimited. But the reform still equates them. It does not contain any provisions that will prevent the pressure of eco-inspectors on business entities to obtain improper advantage and leaves the fiscal nature of business control in place. Corruption cases occur even in the new SEI territorial branches formed based on the reform.
- The reform does not promote openness of data on the state of the environment, the procedure for issuing permits is not subjected to new control, the issue of monitoring environmental elements remains unresolved, which significantly influences the possibility of control decision-making at the initiative of the newly created service.
Representatives of the public have repeatedly provided the relevant ministry with detailed proposals that will enable the introduction of an effective environmental monitoring system in Ukraine:
- Change control purpose and procedure. The objective of the environmental control body should be not only to identify violations and bring the perpetrators to justice, but also to prevent the damage to the environment, which will be facilitated by the introduction of control over the procedure for issuing permits. The control procedure should exclude obtaining consent to take control measures by the higher authorities.
- Create an independent environmental control body. The ecological control body should not report to the Ministry of Ecology and Natural Resources. Territorial ecological inspection bodies should act on the level of regions, districts and have eco-inspectors at the level of local self-government bodies.
- Strengthen environmental responsibility. It is necessary to review the penalty and establish responsibility for a number of violations. It is also necessary to introduce administrative liability and criminal law measures for legal entities – for the environmental regulations violation.
Taking into account the above, experts of the RPR Environmental Protection Team call on the Ministry of Ecology and Natural Resources and the Government:
- To suspend reform implementation until a holistic vision of the environmental control system and the implementation procedure are developed and presented.
- To engage stakeholders in the reform development and take into account the above and other proposals of the expert community.
- To start the reform by eliminating corruption risks and disadvantages in the eco-control rather than by creating a new body.
- To clarify the procedure based on which as of April 5, 2019, public discussion of the registered Draft Law on State Environmental Safety (No. 9336 dated November 23, 2018) will be held as well as legal procedures based on which the public’s proposals will be taken into account.