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Nobody wants to fund the construction of their own gallows! – Ukraine

December 23, 2015

Quote of the day surely belongs to newly appointed Anti-Corruption Prosecutor Holodnytskyi – “When the NAB and the anti-corruption prosecutor’s office get down to full-scale work, a chain reaction will start.  I guess someone does not want us to do it.  You know, in fact, the entire composition of the Cabinet falls within our scope.  From prime minister and ministers to their deputies.  Nobody wants to fund the construction of their own gallows!”

It is a quote that will be revisited a few paragraphs hence after 22nd December being a day of willing and unwilling anti-corruption reform issues raised in the Verkhovna Rada.

Firstly, and somewhat positively, the constitutional amendments regarding the reformation of the judiciary in Ukraine easily passed the 226 votes required to forward the amendments to the Constitution Court for their deliberation – deliberation that is likely to be favourable should there be few/no changes to that which the Venice Commission was broadly in favour of.  Votes in favour were 291 – 9 short of a constitution changing Verkhovna Rada majority, albeit there was no need to rally, coerce nor strong arm a 300+ vote today.  That 300+ constitution changing vote count will be a hurdle for another day.

Secondly was the vote – or sadly many votes – required to accept the resignation of Prime Minister Yatseniuk’s ally and People’s Front colleague, Mr Martynenko.  It took three votes to pass the 226 required to accept his (necessary) resignation.  Even after three attempts a total of only 228 votes were garnered – barely limping across the legislative line, despite Prime Minister Yatseniuk having his friend fall on his political sword in order to retain some (albeit more and more limited) US political backing for his embattled position as PM.

Whilst the outcome is a very minor but positive step – for it remains to be seen whether Mr Martynenko will ever actually be subjected to due process for the allegations against him – the fact it took three votes to gather a vote count that only just reached the required number does not project the perception of a Verkhovna Rada particularly keen to deal with alleged corruption within its own ranks.  Far from it in fact.

anti corThat perception brings about nicely, the quote in the opening paragraph.

As stated when Mr  Holodnytskyi was appointed at the last possible hour in order for Ukraine to meet the EU requirements to enable Visa-free travel, if it was difficult to force the Ukrainian political elite to create the machinery parts required to effectively fight corruption within the highest echelons of power, the really, really hard work would begin after his appointment – when in having such a machine, would it actually be allowed to seamlessly run?

And lo so it has (unsurprisingly) come to pass that the Ukrainian budget for 2016 is the first parliamentary effort that seems set to deliberately subvert the newly formed and independent anti-corruption bodies charged with looking at the political elite specifically – bringing about what is certainly the quote of the day, and that which opened this entry.

Chief Anti-Corruption Prosecutor  Holodnytskyi  stated – “What is the Cabinet doing with our funding?  On 11th December they introduced the revised draft state budget where, due to lack of funds, the provisions of Article 81 (wages) of the law on prosecutor’s office were suspended.  That is, we will be funded as an ordinary PGO’s department and our investigators will get 7,000-8,000 (approx. $300-340) a month.   Ordinary prosecutors within the anti-corruption prosecutor’s office – ed should receive about UAH 50,000 (about $2,000) per month.  Mid-tier executives are supposed to earn about UAH 60,000.  Senior officials – UAH 65,000.  Myself – about UAH 80,000.  These are amounts inclusive of various bonuses.

 We have a situation, when all agree that corruption is our greatest evil, and it must be fought, but the funding is absent. With such salaries I won’t be able to motivate people dealing with $ billion-worth scams. What will I tell them? Guys, you will receive UAH 7,000, but be honest?  Moreover, all the anti-corruption prosecutors are under scrutiny now, and any shameful act will have the effect of a bomb.

When the NAB and the anti-corruption prosecutor’s office get down to full-scale work, a chain reaction will start.  I guess someone does not want us to do it.  You know, in fact, the entire composition of the Cabinet falls within our scope – From prime minister and ministers to their deputies.  Nobody wants to fund the construction of their own gallows!  But there is pressure by Europe, there is pressure by the U.S., and we’ve got to show that something is being done.”

Thus, should any reader be in any doubt – every single meaningful reform, anti-corruption measure, or prosecution of any member of the currently sitting political elite is going to have to be dragged forcefully from a Verkhovna Rada that can do the right thing, knows what the right thing to do is, but simply won’t do it – unless at either the external diplomatic, economic pressure, or domestic metaphorical (and not ruling out physical) gun point of an increasingly frustrated public.

A long and slow, difficult and hurdle riddled road ahead there will be – particularly if undermining the newly created independent anti-corruption bodies begins with the fundamentals of their financing.

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