Yatseniuk blames the Rada (again) – but is the machinery fit for purpose?

November 18, 2015

Many, many times this blog has stated quite bluntly that reforming Ukraine relies first and foremost upon reforming the political system and machinery – for without that reform will be slow, disjointed, unconsolidated and dysfunctional – if at all.  Changing the faces, be they old, new, corrupt or as pure as the driven snow matters perhaps less than reforming the system and machinery within which they all must operate.

Once again, as is his want, Prime Minister Yatseniuk is blaming the Verkhovna Rada for stymieing much needed reform.  This time, the Prime Minister laments the Verkhovna Rada’s obstructiveness when it comes to strategic State Owned Enterprises (SOEs) that will not be privatised but require quality management and the independence from the State to turn these subsidy, recapitalisation and bad debt write-off corruption pits into entities that produce profits for the State.

“State-owned companies of a strategic importance are to remain in state ownership, but the management system there is to be fully changed. Independent directors, presenting not the interests of the state, but the interests of the state-run company, who are responsible for this, are the basis for forming the new state companies management system.”

And he is right, albeit he is telling only part of the story.  The problem is that the machinery that runs the Ukrainian political system in Kyiv is not conducive to efficient nor much more importantly accountable decision making – and when designed it was deliberately so.


Firstly there is the Presidential Administration which seems to do far more duplication of work that is charged to, and the responsibility of the Cabinet of Ministers, than it does that would and should be expected of a Presidential Administration.  Lord forbid that the Cabinet of Ministers actually work without micromanaged input, and all to frequent interference, from the Administration of the President.

However, if the Presidential Administration is micromanaging, then the Cabinet of Ministers apparatus takes things to a whole new definition of micromanagement (yet maintaining a lack of accountability).

It would be no exaggeration to state that the Prime Minister and the Minister of the Cabinet of Ministers define and personify micromanagement at the DNA level of an entity.

The mini-Empire that is the Cabinet of Ministers administration has departments within that mirror the State Departments.  Almost without exception, any decision, draft law, directorate et al. coming from any State Ministry or Minister, is run through that administrative mini-Empire for the approving nod from the relevant Deputy Prime Minister.  Heaven forbid a Minister that makes unapproved decisions by at least a Deputy Prime Minister, if not Prime Minister Yatseniuk himself.

In order to insure there is no personal accountability for anything however, the old Soviet practice of vizirovanie, where any decree, protocol, draft law (whatever) requires dozens of signatures from within the Cabinet of Ministers administrative empire and from within often numerous ministries themselves, means no individual is responsibly for any single decision – and if the draft law, decree or protocol (whatever) is exceedingly dubious, or corrupt, or clearly promoting a vested interest, then delegate the signatory to the relevant ministry intern or administrative clerk to insure absolute deniability and unaccountability.  The entire point is that lots of people can sit around in circles and all point the finger at each other, and also get a share of any nefarious cash on offer.

There is also the issue of the Verkhovna Rada committees.

The amount of behind the curtain horse trading to chair or have undue influence on certain committees defies belief.  Those behind the curtain have much to gain from controlling committees or buying/renting enough MPs on those committees to either pass, fail, or forever stall legislation at the committee stage before it even reaches the Verkhovna Rada for a vote.  Numerous committee meetings don’t take place because MPs designated to a committee simply don’t turn up in the required numbers to meet the “number present” protocol demands – with no disciplinary consequences.

If legislation gets as far as a Verkhovna Rada vote, should the vested interests of the elite be seriously endangered there remains the option to vote down a law, and “rent” some MPs not already “owned” in an attempt to do so.

If that fails, wait three or six months and then try and amend any interest interfering legislation into impotency.

Throughout each and every one of these processes, there is no individual that takes personal responsibility for any decision or outcome.

That there are “owned” and “rented” MPs is in no small measure do to the mechanics of party funding and the way party lists operate in the proportional representation electoral process.

Prime Minister Yatseniuk may well once again be bemoaning the Verkhovna Rada for failing to facilitate much needed reforms, but it is the political infrastructure and machinery that produces the entirety of a damaged Verkhovna Rada, a Prime Minister’s mini-Empire that micromanages the departments of State, a cowed Cabinet of Ministers, and which allows for the Presidential Administration to interfere with and duplicate the work of the Cabinet of Ministers.

The political machinery is designed to produce slow, ineffective, vested interest accommodating, poorly drafted, poor decision based outcomes.  Until the issue of reformatting the political framework and machinery is tackled there will be a lot more bewailing over who, what, how, when and why untimely and substandard political outcomes befall whoever is Prime Minister.

As 2016 is the year that will see Ukraine either lose a significant amount of western political (and financial) goodwill should it fail to reform at much greater speed – or see increased western political (and financial) will should it reform at a more respectable pace, there is perhaps good reason to swiftly address the internal workings of the national political machinery.  2017 may be too late.

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