Source: Transparency International

In the last few months, several unsavory developments involving top government officials, continued attacks on activists and civil society and increased distrust between citizens and government, present a worrying picture of rampant corruption in Ukraine.

The reality of corruption in the country is grim. Ukraine ranks 120 out of 180 countries. Ukraine scored just 32 out of 100 in the 2018 Corruption Perception Index (CPI), well below the average global score of 43. Although Ukraine increased its CPI score by two points since last year, its poor track record and apparent backsliding earned Ukraine a place as a ‘country to watch’.

To prevent corruption further undermining democratic institutions it is critical for the Ukrainian government to ensure the independence of institutions and to preserve checks and balance, which are vital to controlling corruption..

Despite attempts to address systemic corruption over the last decade, including several new anti-corruption agencies with different mandates and functions, the country still has a long way to go in improving its anti-corruption record. While Ukraine has made significant strides to develop the institutional infrastructure necessary to tackle corruption, results vary from agency to agency, with most agencies performing poorly and lacking the necessary independence to carry out their work. Implementation and enforcement also remain incomplete.

Although the National Anti-Corruption Bureau (NABU), the agency tasked with investigating cases of high-level corruption, is up and running, and has already prosecuted around 500 officials for corruption.

Similarly, the National Agency for the Prevention of Corruption (NAPC), a preventative body in charge of developing national anti-corruption policies, monitoring political financing and protecting whistleblowers, has also been a source of much controversy and scandal. The agency lacks political independence and credibility; it has yet to make any notable progress or bring about any significant investigations.

In addition, in 2018 the government approved a law to establish the High Anti-Corruption Court (HACC), however the judge selection process is ongoing. The court is the judicial system’s missing link, and is vital for completing cases of top-level corruption. The court expects to start work in June 2019.

Together, these newly established institutions form the basis of a solid anti-corruption infrastructure. However, for these anti-corruption bodies to fully exercise their mandate, Ukraine’s leaders need to show consistent and genuine political will. Much of the anti-corruption progress achieved so far has only been possible because of the efforts of civil society and Ukraine’s international partners.

The adoption of the HACC is a big step forward for the anti-corruption community. Transparency International Ukraine (TI-Ukraine) led the advocacy and awareness campaigns for the HACC from the moment the concept emerged three years ago. However, TI-Ukraine also argued that the HACC be a separate court with independent judges so that it is better able to tackle cases of grand corruption. For the last year, Ukrainian civil society has been tirelessly working to ensure an independent, non-partisan selection process for the new judicial body.

As an unintended side effect of advocacy efforts, civil society in Ukraine is all too often exposed to threats, intimidation and hate speech, and this trend is getting worse. Much more needs to be done to protect activists and secure the space for civil society to operate.

Whoever eventually forms the next government must demonstrate exceptional political will and pursue constructive engagement with civil society to turn Ukraine into a more transparent country, where the rule of law and human rights are not only respected, but championed. The next government will need to act promptly and restore citizens’ trust in the institutions that protect their interests.

Transparency International estimates that roughly 200 of the 450 lawmakers in the Ukrainian parliament, known as the Verkhovna Rada, are on the take. They are all intertwined with each other and many of them do business together and have offshore companies. The probability that parliament will lift their immunity is extremely low.


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