- Title: Ukrainian anti-corruption reform faces threats
- Date: 24th October 2016
- Summary: SOBOLEV TALKING SOBOLEV GESTURING
- Embargoed: 8th November 2016 16:17
- Keywords: Ukraine corruption electronic declaration member of parliament Petro Poroshenko IMF reform
- Location: KIEV, UKRAINE
- City: KIEV, UKRAINE
- Country: Ukraine
- Topics: Lawmaking,Government/Politics
- Reuters ID: LVA00355D6893
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: Ukrainian prime minister Volodymyr Groysman urged his cabinet colleagues to be brave enough to submit declaration, saying it was like shutting one's eyes before parachuting out of a plane.
But as the deadline for its completion nears, an IMF-backed reform forcing Ukrainian politicians and officials to declare their assets online is facing what some lawmakers and anti-corruption activists say are persistent attempts to sabotage it.
"In general, one can find all data about the kleptocrat estate of all Ukrainian politicians, officials, prosecutors, judges, etc. in one place. That's precisely why they want to bury it," said Viktor Chumak, an independent lawmaker and the deputy head of the parliament's committee on fighting corruption.
The reform comes at a critical time for Ukraine. More than two years after street protests ousted a Kremlin-backed president, political leaders in Kiev must be seen to make good on promises to transform the country and tackle corruption.
The reform has faced hostility from the start, and the original August launch date was delayed because the software wasn't given security clearance. Several lawmakers introduced bills to try to water the reform down and others want it delayed.
The system finally went live in September but MPs say it is full of problems that make it difficult to complete the form properly. Its designer says those problems were introduced after he handed control of the software to the authorities.
The consequences of Ukraine missing the Oct. 30 deadline for some 50,000 people to declare their wealth may be far-reaching, and the prospect of that happening prompted the EU to send an urgent letter to the speaker of parliament.
The International Monetary Fund sees the deadline as a "structural benchmark", and failing to meet it would weaken the case for the IMF to disburse more aid as part of a $17.5 billion bailout by the end of this year.
The EU has linked the reform to granting a visa-free regime to Ukraine. If the reform fails, it would add to the impression that Kiev's Western-backed leaders do not have the will to tackle corruption. Other measures, such as privatising state companies or cleaning up the customs service, also face threats.
"It is absolutely obvious for me that those declarations which the president made to the international community - that the system will fully operate - are artificial and made to convey a picture that Ukraine is fulfilling its obligations," said Oleksandra Drik, head of the Civic Lustration Committee, an anti-corruption body.
Politicians have had to fill in asset declaration forms before, but the new one is more comprehensive and carries prison sentences for false statements.
President Petro Poroshenko told local television on Sunday that the form was not perfect and he didn't much like it.
"But it cannot be a reason not to fill it in," he said, and he would submit his on time.
Based on the principle that sunlight is the best disinfectant, the measure was designed to expose the wealth of politicians, officials, prosecutors and judges in a country that thrives on kickbacks and tax evasion.
Some politicians, officials and businessmen have amassed fantastic wealth. To many, this was encapsulated by the luxurious residence of Viktor Yanukovich, the Russian-backed president who fled into exile two years ago.
Similarly, police found 42 kilograms of gold and $4.8 million in cash during a search of the apartments of former Energy Minister Eduard Stavytsky two years ago. And last year, large quantities of diamonds and cash were found at the homes of two high-ranking prosecutors.
As of Monday, just over half the 50,000 declarations had been submitted.
- Copyright Holder: REUTERS
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