What did “Samopomich” do and will do to clean Ukrainian politics from corruption

Is it possible to eliminate the oligarchs from politics and how?
How to deprive them of the access to state resources, how to put an end to plundering, and finally return the money to the budget?
Is it possible to remove the parliamentary immunity at last?
What will happen to those MPs and officials who cannot explain the origin of their fortunes worth of millions?

RESISTANCE AND FIGHT AGAINST CORRUPTION

The most corrupted country in Europe and Central Asia is Ukraine; the second one is Serbia, and the third – Russia. Such disappointing data from a research of Transparency International was published in November 2016.

However, even but for the research, it is doubtful there is a person in Ukraine who hasn’t experienced the corruptness of the entire system of state power. Petty corruption with which people face every day when paying school fees, which are actually disguised bribes, buying the most needed medicines in hospitals, paying off the fine for speeding – these are just consequences of political corruption in the government.

The very political corruption is a consequence of the vicious circle of elections.

Every time elections are held, the newly created political projects, political parties and candidates for deputies in the majority districts need funding to pay for political advertisement, “buckwheat”, administrative resource, or other “pre-election” technologies, as well as to “protect” the results of their elections. For this the future deputies turn to the oligarchs, who have money and can provide a variety of ways to motivate voters – by means of distribution of free buckwheat or intimidation; through the controlled or their own media; as well as through corrupt investigators, prosecutors, judges, and, in the end, the CEC to guarantee the necessary results.

Parties or candidates receive funds, access to media, dirty tricks and guarantees to avoid liability for any abuse. As a result of such election they get into the Verkhovna Rada and local authorities and get an impact on the decision-making process.

Then the day of reckoning inevitably comes. And those who came to power with the support of the oligarchs begin to pay back. And the only way they can pay back is at the expense of the state budget – through opaque purchases or direct subsidies to industries controlled by the oligarchs, through privatization of state property for a penny, through access to natural monopolies – coal, oil, gas, electricity and others. At the local government level it is also possible to pay for the help in the elections – through the allocation of land, access to space lease and granting control or ownership of public utilities, through provision of permits, in particular, for building owners, and other licenses.

Dependent investigators, prosecutors and judges are needed in order to cover all the illegal transactions, as well as to help the oligarchs steal the loot from each other.

Power = political brand + oligarchic money + oligarchic media + “buckwheat” + dependent courts and law enforcement agencies + disposal of the money of Ukrainians and of Ukrainian resources.

In order to break this vicious circle we must do three key things.

Firstly: it is necessary to remove the oligarchs from the influence on political parties and elections and to ensure the elections on a proportional basis with open lists, so that people consciously choose those whom they want to see in the Parliament.

Secondly: people need to have access to information about their elects’ assets. They have a right to know who they elect, how many houses, cars, or churches and how much cash their candidate has.

Thirdly: responsibility for corruption must be inevitable. We need anti-corruption bodies and anti-corruption courts which will investigate and try those politicians and officials who are not able to explain the sources of their income and assets, as well as investigative agencies of new quality, prosecutor’s office and courts to deal with low-level corruption.

Our goal:

Power = values + political party + real elections + transparency + accountability.

ELIMINATION OF OLIGARCHIC INFLUENCE ON POLITICS

Without changes to the system, no elections – either early or regular – will be able to change the current situation. So the first thing to do is to cut off the oligarchs from politics. It is almost impossible to do so in full, but it is quite real to minimize the influence of oligarchic capital on the policy of the state.

To do this the first thing we need are the new rules governing elections – a new law on elections on a proportional basis with open party lists, which will destroy the majority system, which is the easiest way to bring to power the “right” people by buying votes. Despite the fact that in the Verkhovna Rada there is a bill registered, which has been developed with the participation of experts, without the pressure of the people political forces will not have the desire to get rid of the old electoral law, although all of them had promised to do this. Samopomich faction is the only political force that supports the adoption of this law openly, consistently and actively. Otherwise, Ukraine will have no chances for an independent from the oligarchs Parliament and Government.

A fundamental step to be done to remove the oligarchs from politics is to appoint a new composition of the CEC, instead of the one appointed by Yanukovych. It was the President of Ukraine who was supposed to propose candidates for the Central Election Commission in the Parliament; however the President had been neglecting this duty for more than 2 years. In the summer 2016, the President of Ukraine initiated dismissal of members of the CEC and appointment of a new composition, due to the position of Oleh Bereziuk, Yehor Soboliev and many other deputies of the faction, among other things, who publicly appealed to the President with a demand to replace the CEC. Among the candidates for the new composition of the CEC there is a candidate from Samopomich, Yevhen Radchenko, a representative of civil society, one of the most experienced experts on electoral systems and electoral law. Now the Verkhovna Rada has to consider the appointment of the CEC, and the deputies of Samopomich faction will apply efforts to speed up this process.

Since most of the media in Ukraine are directly or indirectly controlled by the oligarchs, political advertising is one of the key elements of manipulation and outright lies that plays a critical role in bringing to power the politicians loyal to the oligarchs. Oleh Bereziuk and Yehor Soboliev have filed a bill “On prohibition of political advertising” for politicians both at the national and local levels to lose their dependence on large financial and industrial groups and to stop serving their interests. The foreseeable reluctance of the politicians controlled by the oligarchs to pass this law makes it difficult to vote, but Samopomich deputies believe that the time will come when under the pressure of people the Parliament will be forced to change the electoral system and to prohibit political advertising, and they are doing everything possible to achieve this – by proposing draft decisions and popularizing them among people and experts.

Deputies of the Samopomich faction believe that public funding of parties will also help remove the oligarchs from politics and will make political parties more independent of and resistant to temptations. The deputies of our faction were among the authors of the law on introduction of the international standards of political party funding. In the 3rd quarter of 2016 political parties received public funding for the first time. Samopomich party received additional revenues due to observance of gender balance, since it became the only faction in the Parliament comprising more than a third of female deputies.

Unconditional removal of oligarchs from politics is impossible without a new law on elections on a proportional basis with open lists, new composition of the CEC, and prohibition of political advertising. However, this is difficult to be implemented, because these steps will destroy the influence of oligarchs on the political process, and the deputies controlled by oligarchs do not intend to destroy the system that brings them to power.

Therefore, Samopomich is convinced that another extremely important step in the war against the oligarchic influence on the politics is to reduce the attractiveness of participation in political processes for the oligarchs. Deputies of the faction are consistently working on limiting the access of oligarchs to public finances, state and natural resources.

For example, in many companies, which are owned by the state or where the state owns more than 50%, there was a situation in which the companies’ managers were actually controlled by the oligarchs, and they didn’t consider it necessary to pay dividends to the budget. Viktoriia Voitsitska and Lev Pidlisetskyi were one of the authors of the law on the return of enterprises in which the state share was more than 50% under the state control. This made it possible to return “Ukrnafta” under the control of the state and attract significant funds into the state budget of Ukraine – since the adoption of amendments PJSC “Ukrnafta” has paid 2.5 billion hryvnias of dividends.

Andriy Zhurzhiy, Viktoriia Voitsitska and Lev Pidlisetskyi initiated criminal proceedings to make “Ukrnafta” pay 10 billion of the accumulated tax debt to the budget. Obviously, this should be done not by MPs, but by the State Fiscal Service, which, however, due to its corrupt obligations, is not interested in the return of the money to the budget.

Viktoriia Voitsitska constantly makes public the schemes on the most desires monopolies – oil, gas, electricity – and actively fights with such schemes in the Parliament. Due to this position Viktoriia and her family have been repeatedly intimidated. There has even been an attempt on the life of the family. Unfortunately, the Security Service of Ukraine has failed to investigate any of these cases.

Moreover, Samopomich is the only political force in the Parliament that is waging an open war for the independence of the National Commission for State Regulation in Energy and Utilities (NCSREU).

Today NCSREU is one of the main sources of corruption enrichment in hand of one person – the President of Ukraine. In particular, NCSREU is responsible for the calculation of tariffs, it has also established the unreasonable formula for the price of coal in the price of electricity. Thanks to this formula, DTEK companies, owned by “number 1 oligarch” in Ukraine, receive more than 10 billion hryvnias of super-profits per year. This money is paid out of the pockets of people, communities and the state. Samopomich is fighting for the abolition of this decision.

PUBLICITY AND TRANSPARENCY

Deputies of the Samopomich faction were involved in developing and promoting of a powerful anti-corruption legislation that opened the property registries, enabled confiscation of the property of officials the origin of which they could not explain, obliged officials to declare the property made over to other people.

Everyone understood that politicians and officials receive excessive profits, but until recently, the scale was unknown, because the states of officials had been hidden until September 2016, when electronic declaration system was launched. Yehor Soboliev, who was the initiator and ideologist of e-declaration, was the first deputy to publish his declaration.

It is worth noting that e-declarations and open registers were under threat from the outset. There were endless attempts to postpone the date of e-declaration launching and other initiatives that could destroy the very core idea. Yehor Soboliev and Pavlo Kostenko, together with NGOs and with the support of international organizations, managed to defend the idea, thus in September 2016 people saw what their elected representatives, as well as other high-ranking officials and judges, possess. Obviously, people were shocked by the scale of the incomes. However, this is only the first step; 2017will be the most telling year, because everyone will get a chance to see the dynamics – how incomes of the e-declarants will increase over the year.

RESPONSIBILITY

E-declaration was meant to provide people with information about the states of those for whom they vote, and of those whom their elects appoint. However, first of all, e-declaration is a tool for the anti-corruption authorities, which must verify the sources and legality of the officials’ received income.

The National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine (NABU) and the National Agency for Corruption Prevention (NACP) were established to perform these functions. These were Yehor Soboliev, Pavlo Kostenko and Olena Sotnyk who actively worked on the legislation. For example, realizing the fact that the anti-corruption bodies must be highly resistant to corruption, the Samopomich deputies managed to provide for an independent selection of members of the bodies and high salaries for the latter.

For NABU to work effectively, the faction’s MPs, together with community activists, are actively fighting for the bill that would allow NABU to independently carry out investigations and get information from communication channels by court order. This will increase the independence of NABU and reduce the risk of information leakage. Yehor Soboliev is one of the authors of the draft law and he stands for the independence of NABU in investigations.

Presently deputies of the Samopomich faction are fighting against numerous attempts to establish control over the anti-corruption authorities through the amendments to the law “On the Prosecutor’s Office”. There are attempts to once again turn the Prosecutor’s Office, which Ukraine inherited from the Soviet Union as a punitive body with excessive powers, into an instrument of political repression. The recent amendments to the law “On Prosecutor’s Office” and the registered draft laws demonstrate a tendency towards restoration of authoritarianism in Ukraine.

Particularly alarming are the attempts of the Prosecutor General to take control over the cases of NABU and the prospect of prosecutors’ intervention into all legal processes.

For two years Olena Sotnyk has been opposing the attempts of the Prosecutor’s Office to return to the Soviet past. In addition, Olena Sotnyk advocates the introduction of pre-trial investigation system that guarantees the observance of human dignity and human rights. Given this, Olena Sotnyk is the author of several bills that are aimed at improving the law and order system.

Another critical challenge in the process of overcoming corruption is the removal of parliamentary immunity. Given that there is no 300 votes in the Parliament necessary to amend the Constitution to remove the immunity, the issue hasn’t been solved for 2 years. However, the problem is not so much in the Constitution, as it is in the immunity removal procedures that are intentionally spelled out in such a way that provides MPs with maximum opportunities of avoiding responsibility, in particular, of fleeing abroad, which has repeatedly been the case. Therefore, it is necessary to limit the scope of immunity, to simplify the mechanism of removal of immunity by the Parliament in order to prevent the fleeing of people’s deputies from prosecution with their consequent avoidance of responsibility.

At the initiative of Andriy Zhurzhiy, Samopomich deputies Roman Semenukha, Iryna Podoliak and Oksana Syroid developed a draft law, which will actually allow to remove the parliamentary immunity: it allows searches and inspections of personal belongings and luggage, vehicles and housing of MPs on equal terms with other citizens of Ukraine without the permission of the Supreme Council; it prohibit people’s deputies of Ukraine from traveling abroad from the moment of submission of the document on withdrawal of immunity; it allows people’s deputies to opt out of immunity; it significantly reduces the time of consideration of the issue of the withdrawal of immunity. The faction will require adoption of this bill in the near future.

However, it should be understood that any anti-corruption authorities, even without being limited by parliamentary immunity, being armed with e-declaration and the right to conduct independent investigations will be powerless if decisions on the cases against corrupt officials are made by corrupt judges.

In the process of development of amendments to the Constitution concerning the judiciary Oksana Syroid, Olena Sotnyk and Ruslan Sydorovych insisted on opening the way to the purification of the judiciary. Due to the position of Samopomich, righteousness of the candidates for judicial office will be tested, and if the lifestyle of a judge doesn’t meet the level of his official income, a judge may be dismissed from office. The Verkhovna Rada will no longer appoint and dismiss judges, as it has no competence for this. In March 2017, there will be a Supreme Court, to which judges will be selected through an open competition and to which lawyers from outside the judiciary establishment will be able to get, which has not previously been possible. However, the law only is not enough to create quality courts. Now everything will depend on the position of the High Qualification Commission of Judges of Ukraine, the active position of the public and the publicity of the selection process.

In addition, Samopomich deputies together with representatives of the public are working on the draft law on anti-corruption courts which will consider all cases that are currently investigated by NABU.

The final stage of the efficiency of the judicial system is the enforcement of court decisions, which until recently could only be carried out by the state executive service. The state executive service has turned into one of the most corrupt institutions, which taking bribes decides at its own discretion whether or not to perform court decisions. As a result less than 20% of the court decisions are carried out in Ukraine. Ruslan Sydorovych was one of the initiators and, together with the leading Ukrainian and international experts, prepared a package of decisions that have been taken by the Parliament to reform the system.

It should be noted that Samopomich defines the fight against corruption one of its priorities within the activities in the Parliament. However, Samopomich is aware that the process requires a thorough planning of each step and support of people in overcoming the resistance of the corrupt system.

NEXT STEPS:

Samopomich faction will insist on the adoption of a new electoral law on a proportional basis with open lists, on appointment of a new qualitative composition of the CEC, and prohibition of political advertising. This is a difficult path, because the political forces controlled by the oligarchs are not interested in it. But this is the only way to eliminate the oligarchs from politics, public financing and public resources.

NCSREU must operate as an independent regulator to ensure transparent access to the production, storage, transportation, distribution and sale of oil, gas, electricity and heating. Therefore, Samopomich deputies are preparing a new edition of the law on the regulator. Also, Samopomich is working on a draft law, which will offer new transparent mechanisms for managing the state property and privatization procedures.

E-declaration made people aware of the real fortunes of officials. But this is only the first step. Now NABU has to step in. For NABU to act independently, MPs will insist on adoption of a law that would allow NABU to carry out investigations independently and carry out wiretapping by court decision. This will make the anti-corruption bodies effective and will fuse information leakage. Also, Samopomich will resist further attempts to take control over the anti-corruption authorities, will fight for the political independence of the Prosecutor General’s Office, for the professionalism of prosecutors, as well as for changing the Soviet system of pre-trial investigations.

Deputies of the Samopomich faction developed a draft law which will actually allow removing parliamentary immunity of deputies of the Verkhovna Rada. The faction will require the adoption of this bill in the near future.

In March 2017 there will be the Supreme Court. The judges of this court will be selected through an open competition. However, the benevolent intentions of the people who will carry out the judicial reform remain in question. There are constant attempts to give access to the Supreme Court for the “right” people, in particular, for those with military training. Therefore, Samopomich will scrutinize the process of appointment of judges.

The judicial reform envisaged establishment of a new Supreme Anti-Corruption Court. But there was no clear vision as to how the court should work, what kind of cases it should consider, and what judges should be there. Now Samopomich MPs are working together with the public on the preparation of an anti-corruption court bill. The idea behind the bill is as follows: all the cases investigated by NABU should be judged in the Supreme Anti-Corruption Court, while the appeal should be reviewed by the Anti-Corruption Chamber of the Supreme Court. To make sure the judges of the Anti-Corruption Court and the Chamber are truly independent, there should be a separate procedure for their selection by an independent commission, and some very strict requirements for the candidates.

Another problem is the quality of training for the legal professions. A bad doctor may deprive you of life, and a good one can save it. Lawyers do the same with liberty and property. That is why in many countries there are increased requirements for doctors and lawyers in terms of their education, training, responsibility, as compared to other professions. Samopomich faction is working on the reform of legal education that provides for rigorous selection, only full-time education for lawyers, and a single qualifying examination for all law school graduates. This reform is urgently needed to ensure that we have highly professional judges, prosecutors, lawyers in Ukraine, without whom fair trials and effective law enforcement agencies are impossible, hence the fight against corruption will never be successful.

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