Immediately after the second round of the presidential election, Zelensky’s team announced their intentions to restart the National Agency for the Prevention of Corruption (NAPC). And the other day nowadays members of the Presidential Administration, it seems, moved from words to deeds.
According to the Deputy Head of the Administration Ruslan Ryaboshapka (in 2016 he was a member of the NAPC), the Agency’s leadership cannot show the desired result, “it leaves no chance for the resumption of the work of this body”. In addition, according to the representative of the Presidential Administration, the leadership has no professional competence.
It is still unknown how the president wants to “reload” the agency. But Ryaboshapka voiced certain specifics on some positions. So, the new bill is planned to:
1. Change the structure of the management. Now it is a collegial body consisting of five members. It is assumed that there will be one NAPC leader.
2. Remove the problems associated with accessing NAPC to state registries.
3. Eliminate the possibility of blocking the work of NAPC by other government agencies. For example, as in the case with the Ministry of Justice, which tried to limit NAPC in carrying out verification of declarations as much as possible.
Why is it important to raise the issue of the effectiveness of the NAPC again? The fact is that this Agency should develop an anti-corruption strategy and a state program for its implementation, and after adoption by parliament and the government, coordinate and evaluate the effectiveness.
The NAPC should also exercise financial control over the property status of public servants and the monitoring of their lifestyle, control state financing of political parties, and the like. The tasks of the Agency are quite ambitious.
However, despite this, for 2.5 years of work, the activity of the NAPC has been reduced to desk and manual research of the information from the officials’ income declarations, although this procedure should be as automated as possible.
Back in 2016, for unknown reasons, the NAPC abandoned the automatic check. The next two years, all checks were carried out in manual mode - from 2017 to 2018, 615 decisions were made, or 0.03% of all submitted declarations.
In the end, under severe public pressure, the automated system was launched, but immediately leveled with scandals.
Therefore, we should still sort out what basic problems the legislator should pay attention to, in the restart of the NAPC work.
Staff and number of employees
In the structure of NAPC, there are 12 units with a staff of 311 members, of which only 5 units ensure that the National Agency fulfills the powers stipulated by the Law of Ukraine "On the Prevention of Corruption" and "On Political Parties in Ukraine", and 7 perform auxiliary or organizational functions.
At the end of 2018, the NAPC asked the Cabinet to increase its staff by 97 people, for which an additional 64.16 million hryvnias was needed next year. NAPC explained the expansion of the state by a large burden on workers.
For example, in order to receive funds under the fourth program of macro-financial assistance from the European Union, the NAPC needed to verify 1000 official declarations by February 2019. Now a unit of 20 people is engaged in this check, each of them manages to check one or two declarations in a month.
The number of special checks of officials is 1.5 times higher than the possible workload of workers. But then the Ministry of Finance pointed out that the expansion of the NAPC state contradicts the government's strategy of reducing the number of civil servants by 2020. Because of this position of the Ministry of Finance in the Cabinet of Ministers, the idea of increasing the maximum number of Agency employees was called premature.
It is clear that the process of monitoring the way of life of officials, identifying conflicts of interest, the fact of receiving and the cost of a gift is much broader than the analysis of declarations, because it requires additional measures to identify the availability and value of the property of the declarant and his close persons, and establish the facts of lobbying interests in areas of decision making.
NAPC should cooperate with those who report corruption. They are also called accusers. Its members must process their appeals, take care of the protection and prosecution of those who violate the rights of accusers.
To do this, we need an adequate number of NAPC staff and regional offices of the Agency, which now simply does not exist. Therefore, obviously, it is necessary to make changes to the staff structure of NAPC, creating a separate Department, which functions include obtaining information about offenses related to corruption, using operational capabilities with the involvement of experienced workers.
And for the mobility of the NAPC, it is necessary to create its territorial bodies in regional centers, which will allow quickly receiving and verifying the information obtained as a result of monitoring and analysis, identifying the location of the person to whom the protocol is scheduled, and directly handing over the protocols.
There are too many scandals and conflicts around the current leadership of the NAPC. In the expert community, it has long been said that the Agency needs new leadership, and for its election, the composition of the commission should be changed. As in the case of the selection of the Anti-Corruption Court judges, it is important to include in the commission international experts whose votes will be a prerequisite for deciding in favor of the candidate.
It is clear that the NAPC apparatus will also require a reboot after the election of a new leadership by evaluating the performance of the workers, followed by the dismissal of those who did not pass the assessment.
Methods of identifying and collecting information on corruption at different levels of government should be developed and implemented in the activities of the NAPC.
- monitoring the movement of an official (or its relative);
- monitoring the house or property outside the house;
- observation of things carried by the official (or close person);
- photo and video recording of the results of observations.
To this end, it is necessary to make changes to legislative acts to expand the authority conducting operational activities to identify and suppress offenses related to corruption, and to obtain evidence.
The long-awaited work automation
It is necessary to create a single integrated data bank for automated information search and verification of the presence of offenses when analyzing declarations and developing an algorithm for searching data requested by the user.
On the basis of the request, this system will search for information in official registries and data banks and compare them with the data specified in the declaration, thus revealing the facts of offenses and sending the appropriate message to the user.
Of course, in order for this integrated bank to work, it is necessary to oblige, at the legislative level, information holders to provide NAPC with direct automated access to information and reference systems, registries, including those with restricted access, which holder (administrator) are government agencies or local authorities.
In the same context of automating the work of NAPC, it is necessary to create an automated system for determining corruption risks, which should independently monitor open information resources, including the Internet and social networks, for the presence of any information that may indicate unreliability of the data indicated in the declaration and facts of corruption.
This system should determine the tendencies of unfair acquisition of property, privileges, improvement of the lifestyle, preferences and decision-making in favor of persons of conflict of interests, studying connections. The data may be collected in the format of articles, messages or statements, information obtained from discussions in forums, social networks, registries, photos and videos.
"Forcing" to cooperate
In practice, indeed, cooperation with NAPC is often ignored by central executive authorities, local governments and even commercial banking structures. Therefore, at the legislative level, it is necessary to oblige the banks of Ukraine to provide the requested information on the basis of the decisions of NAPC, necessary to establish the fact of an administrative violation related to corruption.
This is necessary to identify inconsistencies of these data in the declaration, the facts of illegal enrichment, the relationship of improving the lifestyle of the official and his decisions, and the like.
As for local and central authorities, they should be legally obliged to provide and update data in relation to officials - subjects of declaration on an ongoing basis. To this end, it is necessary to create a register of entities covered by the law of Ukraine "On the Prevention of Corruption".
Summarizing: as a specialist, I really want to hope that all these points listed above are already in the area of legislators’ attention. Because cosmetic adjustments will not save NAPC, and the crisis of the powers and competencies of the Agency will further aggravate. All this will eventually lead to its elimination.