The National Anti-Corruption Bureau……and stuffDecember 23, 2014
The new National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine has been mentioned quite often recently here, in entries far too numerous to link to. Suffice to say that since its creation passed into law, with the president making it abundantly clear he would prefer a foreigner untainted by Ukrainian corruption to head the Bureau, little else has happened – at least in the public domain. So little in fact, that according to some within the bowels of the RADA, the new Bureau is yet to become a line item on the 2015 budget – which naturally it needs to do. A national anti-corruption bureau requires transparent public funding after all.
However, yesterday evening saw some progress announced within the public realm, relating to the highly convoluted process surrounding the nominating/selecting the (possibly foreign) head of the NACB. Extreme lengths are being gone to in order to make the NACB selection committee seen to be independent of any particular office or political party. Quite necessarily too – perceptions count.
The selection committee comprises of 3 people chosen by the president, 3 by Cabinet of Ministers, and 3 by the RADA. As of yesterday evening, several committee members have now been identified.
The President, being first to announce his chosen committee members, appointed Refat Chubarov, Chairman of the Crimean Mejlis (currently banned from entry to Crimea by Russia), Yevhen Zakharov, a more prominent human rights leader in Ukraine would be hard to find, and Yaroslav Hrytsak a Professor of History from the Ukrainian Catholic University.
A few hours later, the Cabinet of Ministers announced they had appointed Joseph Zisel, lawyer and human rights activist, Alexander Yanovsky a Professor of Law (and ad hoc Judge at the ECfHR), and Yuri Butusov, investigative journalist and editor at Censor.net.
Thus far it has to be said, a committee comprised of people who have never cowed to the political class or bent to political pressure. Indeed a committee with more than its fair share of integrity. Very impressive – if only such levels of robust personal integrity were appointed to sit on all committees.
Indeed, some may wonder whether the NACB as an entity, will actually end up staffed by those of the same high level of integrity as those chosen to select its boss. What a disaster it would be to go to such effort to give the perception of independent selection of the NACB head, to then fill its body with known functionaries of one politician/party or another.
Whatever the case, this now leaves the RADA to appoint and announce their 3 committee members – eventually.
Glacial progress across all reform sectors is now becoming an issue of growing frustration when looking at Ukrainian social media. Whilst older heads may console themselves that the Rule of P (Planning and Preparation Prevents P*ss Poor Performance) is hopefully the cause of delays, and that 2015 will see Ukraine coming out of the reform blocks at a marathon winning pace, having spent this time preparing dutifully for a stellar performance, there cannot be but an acknowledging nod toward the frustrated, and a recognition that the Rule of P is not something the Ukrainian political class has ever been associated with.
What seems quite certain, is that not having identified the NACB head prior to 2015 commencing, despite having talked about it extensively for months, it will be yet another (of many) poorly received signals psychologically within Ukraine. Literally months of talk and very little walk regarding corruption once more, is how many will see it.
Again, having spoken about “decentralisation of power”, (devolution of power still sounds better), since April 2014, there is still no committee charged with identifying what in the Constitution need change to facilitate it – for constitutional change there must be to do so legitimately.
The list of preparatory actions for many reforms that could have, but seem not to have been initiated, remains somewhat notable from the information in the public realm – despite much more reaching the public realm these days. Whilst more haste and less speed is the way forward, haste is not idling by any definition.
The perception of beginning the new year as something of a new, result driven political and bureaucratically streamlined epoch – already lost. Whether there will even be a budget adopted for 2015 in a timely manner remains to be seen. Instead it will now be yet another year entered into high on rhetoric and New Year/Christmas messages from President and Prime Minister, and low on expectation, as far as timely and/or effective implementation is concerned. Little different from many a Christmas Past as far as messaging from the political class, and its subsequent reception amongst the constituency is concerned.
Indeed, who would be surprised to hear the rhetoric of “reform” morph into the rhetoric of “stability” during 2015 as much needed reform policy stutters through timeliness issues, or fails to be effectively implemented once again?
It is to be hoped that Ukrainian civil society makes the most of the festive season to revive and restore its spent energies. Though 2014 was an incredible and extremely testing year for Ukrainian civil society, in ways that hopefully will never manifest themselves again, 2015 is very likely to be a struggle that proves just as difficult and just as important if reform and its effective implementation is to occur in a timely and well constructed manner.