Commentaries
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25 January 2017

NAPC and Ministry of Justice playing a “ball’s in your court” game to delay the review of electronic declarations

 Oleksii Sydorchuk Political analyst, Ilko Kucheriv Democratic Initiatives Foundation

On January 19 the Ministry of Justice of Ukraine stated that the National Agency for the Prevention of Corruption (NAPC) once again ignored the recommendations of the ministry regarding the procedure for review of electronic declarations of public officials. In connection with this the ministry refused to register the documents processed by the NAPC without which the agency cannot begin the review of e-declarations.

Several factors immediately point to the fact that the alleged conflict between the Ministry of Justice and the NAPC could in fact be a coordinated game between the two sides in order to delay the start of review of declarations for as long as possible. First of all, this is not the first time that the Ministry of Justice refuses to approve the procedures drafted by the NAPC. The first time this happened was at the end of November last year. Given the extremely high public resonance of this matter over this period of time the Ministry of Justice and the NAPC could have coordinated all disputable moments and drafted a document that would satisfy both sides. Instead, the public discussions of these procedures organized by the NAPC on January 10 for some reason were held without the participation of the Ministry of Justice, which gave grounds for both sides to continue their mutual reproach.

Secondly, both the NAPC and the Ministry of Justice are not showing true desire to devise high-quality mechanisms of reviews. The NAPC once again has ignored many recommendations of other state bodies and non-government experts by refusing to envisage the reasonable time limits for review of declarations or define concise priorities for the selection of the subjects of reviews. However, the comments of the Ministry of Justice cannot always be considered justified as well. Some of these observations, like criticism of the use of the term “lifestyle” rather than “standard of living”, look more like attempts to artificially drag out the review process. The destructive positions of both bodies most likely reflect the overall unwillingness of representatives of the political elite – both the pro-government and opposition forces – to allow the review of their incomes, expenses and wealth.

In the current situation the variants of the further course of events are not that encouraging. It is highly probable that the Ministry of Justice and the NAPC will continue throwing the ball back into the other’s court, thereby continuing to push back the start of the review of e-declarations. On the other hand, there is a real threat that the mechanisms of review will ultimately be approved in their flawed edition only to satisfy public demand for the continuation of anti-corruption efforts in the sphere of electronic declarations. In such conditions representatives of the non-government sector and Ukraine’s international partners may become the only actors capable of fostering the start of sound and timely reviews of electronic declarations.