Fully functional launch of the e-declaration system is an essential step towards implementation of the principles of the rule of law and authorities’ accountability before the society in Ukraine.
In the past the society and the public only assumed that lifestyle of a large majority of public officials does not correspond to their legal income, while today the country has received all the proofs. Moreover, if the declarants cannot explain the origins of their income, this information might become an important argument in court.
Introduction of e-declarations has opened a wide window of opportunity to tackle corruption. The society shall not lose this chance. Public activists clearly understand the responsibility and the challenges we face today. The law enforcement system and the judiciary are weak and corrupt. As a result, this might influence the ultimate result of the e-declaration system launch – cleansing the public sector of corrupt officials.
Therefore, the experts of the Reanimation Package of Reforms warn that it is unacceptable to sabotage introduction of a complete check of e-declarations and call for its further development and high-quality improvement.
In particular, the National Agency for Corruption Prevention should immediately set the deadlines for complete checks of e-declaration and lifestyle monitoring, as well as automate the process of checking declarations against other state registers and request for access to the relevant registers.
The NACP should also make technical improvements to the system, as it still fails to meet a number of effective legislative regulations in an electronic form or ensure user-friendliness and continuous performance. In particular, it is necessary to lift unlawful restrictions on access to information. It is essential to prepare for the second stage of declaration and ensure continuous lease or purchase of servers. In addition, there should be enough capacities to analyse declarations in automated manner in bulk, while the declarants shall receive electronic digital signatures.
The Ministry of Justice, in its turn, should immediately perform state registration of the procedures for complete check of declarations, monitoring of declarants’ lifestyles, and notification of the opening of a foreign currency account in a non-resident bank.
The agencies authorized to check e-declarations – the NACP, the NABU, the National Police (regarding corrupt criminal and administrative violations) and the State Fiscal Service (regarding tax evasion) are also responsible for the success of the reform. They should pool their efforts to conduct immediate checks of the public officials most prone to corruption (judges, prosecutors, and tax officers), as well as those declarants who have worked as public officials for their entire lives and have somehow managed to earn enormous income.
The Verkhovna Rada should immediately start consideration of the draft law No. 4812 regarding the NABU’s right to independently wiretap. It is also necessary to speed up preparation, submission, and consideration of the draft law on anticorruption court, as declarations of most judges show that their assets might have illegal origins. As a result, it is highly unlikely that the judiciary will effectively investigate the cases instituted on the basis of checks of their colleagues’ e-declarations.
Civil society and media should actively participate in the search and detecting of those declarants who are covering up their income or cannot explain its origins. E-declarations of public officials in all spheres and departments should be checked. It is necessary to control and pressurize the law enforcement agencies to institute criminal proceedings and make the heads of the departments dismiss such persons from office.
The fight for high-quality e-declaration is going on. The old corrupt system will not stop its counterattacks. An attempt to legalize illegal income through ‘de-shadowing’ of capital or ‘zero’ declarations should be expected. There might also be attempts to cover up the information or to alleviate the responsibility for covering up one’s income.
It is also unacceptable to substitute the notions or to extend the requirements for public officials regarding transparent origins of their and their family members’ property and income onto the representatives of the civil society (draft law by MP Yuriy Derevianko).
The goal of anticorruption declarations is to prevent and detect the conflict of interests and the illicit enrichment of public officials, not to pressurize the activists. Such projects are aimed at distracting the public attention from real issues.
The experts of the Reanimation Package of Reforms stress that the public jointly with the reformists in power and the international partners will continue to control the process of e-declaration and will insist on cleansing the authorities from the corrupt officials who cannot explain the origins of their income.