E-declarations Saga: Corruption Fight: The Empire Strikes Back
Politics19:10 Aug. 19, 2016

Corruption Fight: The Empire Strikes Back

In case you missed it: the highlights of launching e-declarations in Ukraine

During this week the attention of all Ukrainians, as well as many of Ukraine's foreign partners was focused on the launch of e-declarations system, or rather, failure thereof. At midnight on August 15th, National Agency on Corruption Prevention launched the system of electronic income declarations, however without the special data protection certificate.

Anastasiya Krasnosilska, Anticorruption Action Center legal counsel: "Absence of this certificate means that all the declarations that are now being submitted to the system do not have legal value. These declarations will not be accepted as proper evidence in court and it will be impossible to bring public officials to justice for submitting false information in their assets declarations or for illegal enrichment."

Read also E-declaration website already hacked

The launch of e-declarations system is one of the key requirements for the country to get not only visa-free travel with the EU, but also the 3-billion-dollar tranche from the IMF. But first and foremost it was yet another step to fight and prevent corruption:

Anastasiya Krasnosilska, Anticorruption Action Center legal counsel: "The idea was to make every public official chose – either to declare all his assets and then go to jail for illicit enrichment, or not to declare, declare false information, but then again face responsibility, criminal responsibility for submitting false asset declarations."

Watch also Anticorruption reform in Ukraine at risk: Electronic income declarations system not working properly

On March 18th the law on e-declarations as adopted by the parliament came into effect. The Cabinet of Ministers approved the technical requirements for the software development and asked UNDP to facilitate in finding the proper contractor.

Blerta Cela, United Nations Development Programme Deputy Country Director: "The TOR was developed very much in line with international standards and was approved by the cabinet of ministers. And I have here the endorsement of the cabinet and it was also developed directly by the World Bank."

Once the contractor has been selected in a tender process, it developed a software, which was supposed to be installed on the web-site of the National Agency for corruption prevention, where all public officials must enter their income declarations. But prior to the launch of the system, the software was supposed to be certified by the State agency for Information protection. This agency should have issued a data protection certificate. Here, when things got tricky

In the very last moment, the State agency for Information protection refused to issue the certificate claiming that there are some technical flaws of the supporting documentation, not the software itself.

Blerta Cela, United Nations Development Programme Deputy Country Director: "We now understand until very recently – the issues relating to the security certification to guarantee data integrity and proper protection of personal data of the system users. We were not made aware of these issues earlier."

Following the back-and-forth haggling, finger-pointing, the activists pushing and the entire world watching over the weekend, the chairperson of the National Agency for corruption prevention decided not to launch the system without the certificate, and then she did.

Yaroslav Yurchyshyn, Executive Director of Transparency International Ukraine: "The chairperson of NACP on Friday announces that the system cannot be launched without data protection certificate, yet on Sunday, august 14-th she makes the decision to launch the system without this certificate. On august 15-th the system is launched and government officials start uploading their data into it. After all, the system is working, right now we have there over 40 declarations, which in reality are nothing more than a sheet of paper, since no one can go to court based on these declarations."

And the hassle around the launch of e-declarations system without the proper certificate began on Monday.

The activists started calling on the government to close access to the system, some of the MPs and ministers urged their colleagues not to upload their declarations into the system, the EU commenting via Twitter that the system cannot work without the security certificate.

The introduction of e-declarations is an additional tool in the corruption fight efforts of the Ukrainian government. But were these efforts genuine? From what we heard from the activists, the government tried to sabotage the reform with all its might:

Oleksandr Kalitenko, Transparency International Ukraine senior analyst: "This is like a corruption counter-revolution right now in Ukraine. Where the potential corrupt official wants to resist this system, because they should indicate their assets in a very-very transparent way. 4.35 That's why it's a key issue to fight corruption in Ukraine."

Finally on Thursday during the parliamentary hearing, which involved all the participants of this process, it was announced that the president of Ukraine, who was silent for 3 days, finally ordered to issue the certificate by August 31-st.

Looks like the parties will go back to fixing the problems, if they existed at all, and hopefully launch the system in two-week' time. We'll see what happens on 1-st of September. It was a busy week in Ukraine. Let's see what the next week will bring us.

Volodymyr Solohub for Ukraine Today.

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