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Total lustration? Not the best choice of words.

March 28, 2015

There is naturally a need to keep the public informed of the cleansing of the institutions of State when such a cleansing remains very much a demand of the Ukrainian constituency.  Indeed it would be very foolish not to publicise the fact that on-going cleansing continues, lest the public begin to believe that a return to the historically corrupt status quo is to be tolerated – despite all the rhetoric to the contrary.

However, there is an equal need to be brutally honest and manage expectations.

Yesterday saw a public statement by Zorian Shkiriak, the Acting Chairman of the State Service for Emergency Situations, claiming the total lustration of that institution, following more than 300 dismissals during his “acting” tenure.

Well, very good.

But more than 300 dismissals cannot mean the end to lustration within his institution.  Sacking more than 300 corrupt employees removes 300 corrupt employees – it does not remove the opportunities for corruption, and thus will not remove corruption for long (if at all).  There will undoubtedly be some corrupt employees that managed to slip through the net too.

As any green-fingered gardener will tell you, a quick sprinkling of “weed ‘n’ feed” deals with most of the problem weeds, although not all – and certainly not permanently.  It is a constant battle, for they grow back.

Thus as any anti-corruption drive has to be a continuing effort for as long as human beings are corruptible, it follows lustration cycles (and the checks behind them) will have to remain part of any such system for some time to come – even after claims of total lustration.  The hopeful outcome being that the numbers subject to mass dismissal are reduced each time, to a point whereby the numbers of corrupt are more effectively dealt with by way of criminal investigation and due process, rather than the current mass sackings of lustration in order to avoid overloading the (still corrupt) court system.

There is no silver bullet for corruption in Ukraine any more than there is a silver bullet for corruption in any other nation.

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Greed is, after all, one of the seven deadly sins.  It has been around a long time, and it is not about to vanish from Ukrainian officialdom within Mr Shkiriak’s institution after one (brutal) round of lustration, anymore than it will in any other Ukrainian institution.

Corruption can be managed, and opportunities for corruption diminished – but it will not be removed.  There should be no such statements regarding “total lustration” within the  State Service for Emergency Situations (without simply closing it entirely),  or anywhere else, for having now generated the public perception of an entirely cleansed State institution, it will be a very public fall when the next case of corruption occurs within the  State Service for Emergency Situations – and that next case of corruption will undoubtedly occur, despite the best and most genuine of efforts, by Mr Shkiriak.

With corruption, it is probably better to provide a positive (where appropriate) progress report for public consumption – but nothing more definitive than that.  “The first round of lustration has been completed” would perhaps have been a far better expression to use.

As all gardeners know, those once thought destroyed weeds have a habit of growing back – aggressively.

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