Archive for December 6th, 2017

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Is an independent NABU Auditor in sight – or just a dependent one?

December 6, 2017

The 6th December witness the Verkhovna Rada Committee on the Prevention of Corruption support the removal of Yeger Sobolev as its Chairman – a position he has held since 2014.

This decision for his “unsatisfactory work in office” was supported by presidential Deputies Oleg Barna, Tatyana Rychkova, Igor Artyushenko, Yuri Buglak, from the People’s Front party Konstantin Mateichenko, Yuri Savchuk, Vidrodzhennya’s Mikhail Lanyo, along with a few others.

The matter now goes before the Verkhovna Rada in a vote to remove him from the Chairman position – which appears likely will see his removal when looking at the political parties involved above.

So what?

As is always the case with politicians, only a fool will worship any of them.  They are all flawed (as are we all).

There are times when their own interests clearly take priority over the public interest.

On occasion Mr Sobolev has certainly stood his anti-corruption ground where others would have crumbled, however he has also involved himself in incidents he would have been wiser to , if not ignore, then react to with a little more consideration.

Further he is seen as too close (perhaps for pragmatic reasons rather than personal liking) to some divisive political personalities by some.  He is also believed by some to go beyond mere support for certain institutions currently under State assault.  Matters of perception of course.

However, relating directly to his VR Committee Chairman role, one of the issues most associated with Mr Sobolev is the prevention of appointing the Independent Auditor for NABU – a statutory requirement, and a rightful one.  After all there can be no institution devoid of responsibility and accountability, whether that be achieved horizontally, vertically, or via external independent audit.

It is no secret that Mr Sobolev prevented the appointment of such an individual, and thus NABU continues to work without the required statutory audit.  The scope of any such audit, it has to be made clear, is actually not particularly clear per statute. The text is woolly and its interpretation therefore very elastic.

Mr Sobolev would claim his obstruction was due to the fact that he believed that the candidate for Independent NABU Auditor was in fact anything but “independent”, but rather of Bankova/Presidential influence.

15 months later, NABU remains without audit and no Auditor has been appointed.

Therefore, it may be that the removal of Mr Sobolev will provide for the appointment of an Independent NABU Auditor – or unfortunately, it may also provide for a far less Independent NABU Auditor.

This matters as the result of any unfavorable audit paves the way to remove the NABU Chief and thus provides opportunity to insert somebody more “compliant” with The Bankova desires.

There can be no doubt that The Bankova, via Yuri Lutsenko as Prosecutor General, has failed to subordinate NABU and that open warfare between the PGO, with the assistance of the SBU, is now being waged against NABU.

From a Bankova perspective, elections for president and Verkhovna Rada are soon (albeit March and October 2019) and control of all those institutions that may become problematic is a requirement to insure there will be no “surprises” or resistance with regard to “untimely” or “unwanted arrests” and/or interference in the possible misuse of State administrative resources (if necessary) to insure the “right outcome”.

While the Saakashvili circus may well catch the international media attention, it will not garner much interest domestically, nor with the diplomatic corps vis a vis the subterfuge and blatant unscrupulous attacks that NABU and other anti-corruption institutions into which large foreign political, diplomatic, technical, training, and financial energy has been placed – not to mention constant on-going institutional cooperation.

As such the current Saakashvili circus may catch the attention of an otherwise generally disinterested international media, but it will not distract the attention of those that count from what really matters – the domestic constituency, the diplomatic corps, and the capitals they report to.

Only a complete fool would believe otherwise, as the UK made unambiguously clear on 6th December.

“Following recent events which appear to threaten the activities of the National Anti-Corruption Bureau, an FCO spokesperson said:

The UK has growing concerns that Ukraine’s fight against corruption is being undermined. Corruption remains a major threat to Ukraine’s stability and national security and is cited by Ukraine’s electorate as the number one issue facing the country. The fight against it is fundamental to Ukraine’s European choice and its aspiration to become a modern, prosperous and democratic state.

The National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine (NABU), in which the UK has invested significant resource, is a critical piece of the anti-corruption machinery in Ukraine, and has made great strides in its development and its investigations. Recent events, including interference in NABU investigations and the exposing of NABU’s undercover officers, are a worrying sign that the future of independent anti-corruption investigations is under threat.

We hope that those in positions of authority will show leadership in progressing a joined up reform effort to eradicate corruption.”

There can be no doubt that the US shares the same sentiment – for the Head of NABU and the Special Anti-Corruption Prosecutor are both currently in the USA and NABU has worked closely with the FBI during and after its creation.  If not a child of the FBI (which it is not, for NABU is born of multiple foreign donors and experts), then there is an almost certainly inferred part-time nanny or doting Great Aunt empathy.

Indeed Prosecutor General Lutsenko appears to be feigning concerns of purported ad hominem attacks before the FBI.  Faux concern indeed for a man who knows such conversations occur all the time and has partaken in numerous such conversations with foreign officials all of his political life.  The FBI does not need anybody to go to the US to tell them about the misdeeds of Yuri Lutsenko.  It never has.  Neither does any other capital.  Their diplomats are told such tales every day, and those tales inevitably influence communiques home.

The EU Ambassador has also made very terse and public comment over the past 6 months about the deliberate obstructionism relating to creating an anti-corruption court and the equally deliberate efforts to insure NABU and other anti-corruption bodies do not have the tools to do their job.

Thus The Bankova is rapidly burning through an awful lot of foreign goodwill regarding its assault and deliberate hindrance of the anti-corruption effort – to the point where President Poroshenko may surrender his position as the “least worst option” for 2019.

The question therefore, is will the removal of Mr Sobolev as Chair of the Verkhovna Rada Committee on the Prevention of Corruption create conditions for the appointment of a genuinely independent NABU Auditor as required by law and that would undoubtedly receive universal support, or will it generate the opportunity to insert a less than independent Auditor that will pave the way to fire the current NABU Chief and insert a compliant replacement – bringing all the irksome parts of the machinery that can produce political surprises under Bankova influence prior to 2019?  If the latter occurs some capitals are likely to cut Poroshenko free – for there comes a point where if a policy cannot be defended, the policy must be reviewed.

A watchful eye upon who replaces Mr Sobolev would seem to be prudent if looking for indication.

In the meantime, if this draft law passes in the Verkhovna Rada in the immediate future, (which in the current climate it probably will) then clearly despite the plausible wrapping, it is in effect the end to an independent NABU, and signals the end of its current leadership post haste.

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