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Sending the right message the wrong way? – Groisman

May 7, 2016

Since the beginning of the year, intermittently entries have appeared regarding the valiant battle being fought at Odessa Customs by Yulia Marushevska (and the team behind her), against vested interests.

Those ad hoc entries consistently containing prose along the lines of – “Ms Marushevska is already clearly being pressured by the old entrenched personalities, as well as the nefarious among the SBU and SFS that have always benefited from the very lucrative and nefarious scams that historically defined the Odessa ports – and thus looks favourite.”

Indeed, for those interested, the Facebook page of Yulia Marushevska describes a daily battle – particularly of late with the State Fiscal Service and Roman Nasirov, an individual seemingly determined to frustrate and obstruct reform at every opportunity.  She has managed to gather 3 official reprimands from Mr Nasirov, and should she survive long enough, there will probably be more.

If a reader ponder why Mr Nasirov remains in control of the State Fiscal Service whilst seemingly actively seeking to keep enormous illicit financial flows alive from which some in Kyiv, the SFS, the SBU, together with local vested interests have historically profited, as stated in a very recent post related to the apparent inability to sack senior officials – “Indeed, how people such as Roman Nasirov remain head of the State Fiscal Service may also perplex a reader (though a cynical reader may believe that he remains in place as part of a grubby political deal to insure sufficient votes for the new Cabinet from otherwise hostile political positions).”

Indeed both President Poroshenko, and Prime Minister Groisman immediately upon his appointment, received an open letter from Yulia Marushevska to support Odessa Customs (notwithstanding persistent lobbying to do so from Governor Saakashvili) – and also a request to remove Mr Nasirov.  Whether or not Mr Nasirov will be removed, considering the quote immediately above, remains to be seen.

If so, would he go out in similar fashion to Viktor Shokin when he sacked Davit Sakvarelidze in his few final hours in post, by attempting to fire Yulia Marushevska as his swan song.  Honours even (or equal losses) between functionaries/beneficiaries of the Old Guard vis a vis the reformers?

Clearly the removal of Mr Nasirov would not be immediate if, as insinuated above, his retaining that position was a requirement for political support (votes) in appointing the new Cabinet.  Further those votes may yet be required to see the necessary constitutional changes regarding the judiciary over the 300 (+) voting line – A vote due in the Verkhovna Rada by mid-July.

However, Mr Groisman, if he wishes to be perceived as a successful Prime Minister cannot ignore the rampant corruption within the SFS and Customs Service.  Internal regional governance and external supporters will not allow the issue to be ignored.

Whatever a reader may think of Mr Groisman, to be perceived a failure will not be upon his agenda.

Lo, the Prime Minister has fired a public shot across the bow of the Customs Service and the State Fiscal Service – “You have three months to restore order within Ukrainian Customs.  If you have a political will, I support you – if not, write the statement of resignation today or otherwise be swept away.”

Two clear goals were set – to increase the State revenues and work honestly.  (In other words significantly reduce the rampant levels of corruption in which you are engaged and allow more to reach the State coffers.).

Thus far there is little wrong with the message.

A reader my ponder whether a 3 month period to regain control of two State institutions is both necessary and/or possible whilst simultaneously leaving in senior posts those who have (often deliberately) failed to reduce the rampant levels of corruption within the institutions that they lead – but again that period is perhaps politically sufficient to then be able to justify the less than timely removal of personnel left in post previously required to garner political support from otherwise hostile quarters when the new Cabinet was elected, and also see constitution changing votes gather enough support in the meantime.

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Unfortunately the Prime Minister then made a statement that may be perceived by his critics as something approaching poor judgement.  He went on to state that the SFS and Customs creating and participating in grey or black schemes at a time when there is a war in the east and people have no money to buy medicine is “looting and a crime“.

He is of course right, it is “looting” (to use his term) and a crime” – but it is looting and a crime whether there is a war in the east, and whether the population can afford medicine, or not.  If Ukraine were a prosperous nation and peace was ever-present in the neighbourhood, in no way would that make the rampant corruption within the SFS and Customs any less “looting and a crime“.

Thus his critics may perceive this as being somewhat less than robust regarding corruption and something similar to an inferred temporary moratorium and/or request for little more than reasonable parameters upon nefariousness.

Whatever perception a reader may have, it is perhaps too soon to act as judge, jury and executioner on a Groisman premiership.

Indeed, the pressure to deal with Customs and the SFS internally of the governing class is not limited to pleas from Yulia Marushevska or rants from Governor Saakashvili.  Transcarpathian Governor Gennady Moskal has now threatened to resign due to senior appointments within his region’s Customs Service that in his view does little but enhance the interests of the cigarette smuggling mafia.  No doubt neighbouring supportive States also deliver such a message when deprived of domestic VAT due to huge quantities of smuggled Ukrainian cigarettes.

Naturally any response to Governor Moskal’s concerns (to avoid his resignation) will be led by Roman Nasirov of the SFS, the subject of complaints from both Odessa Customs and Governor, and an individual who clearly already suffers from a lack of confidence from the Transcarpathian Governor too.  Mr Nasirov by inference is also the man that the Prime Minister has given 3 months to sort his institutional act out, whilst undoubtedly Prime Minister Groisman has also been provided with weighty tomes regarding issues and evidence against Mr Nasirov .

Few will thus have much faith in Mr Nasirov ever sorting out the SFS or Customs – but just how difficult will he prove to be to remove – and perhaps as importantly, when is it most timely to do so from a PM Groisman viewpoint?

Is Prime Minister Groisman sending the right message the wrong way – or is he sending the right message in the only way possible – for now?

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