as long as we keep asking these sorts of questions, corruption will thrive and flourish. We cannot win this fight if the majority of Ukrainian citizens stand idly by. This cynical idleness is well obvious in the attitude of most Ukrainians, living in the occupied East: «Let those “rebels” fight with troops, that’s none of our business. We’re just making it through all of this mess». (And will abide whoever wins). In denying that this is in fact not a “mess” but an on-going war for Ukrainian sovereignty, residents of the Donbas region not only delude themselves but also bring about their own hardships.
The corrupt ways of the past are still here. Who’s to blame? Is it the President Petro Poroshenko, Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin, the Supreme Economic Court of Ukraine? The truth is, the corrupt system is fueled daily by actions of hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian citizens, in all probability - your neighbor and the head of your building’s housing maintenance office included. And others (all 45 millions, it seems) put up with that. How are we to win this fight if you’re not fighting?!
And yet, the path to victory was paved long ago. These steps were taken in dozens of countries globally. And. They. Work! And we should promote these changes in Ukraine, introduce them and implement them – and keep vigil throughout. Otherwise all we have is gibbering on how we need to change and blah blah and yakkity yak.. And no result. Of course, there will be separate successful cases, several schemers and schemes will be stopped.. But in the grand scheme of things, that will change nothing: the corrupt system will remain unshaken and the all-Ukrainian gravy train will keep going, with more and more people getting on board.
So what are these steps to sweep away corruption?
Transparent records on property
Records on property should be transparent and public. We already put a legal framework in place, the Law of Ukraine «On Amendments to Certain Acts of Ukraine on Improving Transparency in Property Relations in Order to Prevent Corruption» (see parliamentary archive) is in effect. You can obtain information on real property, as well as about the holder of rights thereto from The State Register of Property Rights to Real Estate and The State Land Cadaster — plots the property on the Public cadastral map, and check the cars owned by state officials and legal entities in the Registry of vehicle owners. Also, the governmental fee for obtaining an extract from the State Register and Cadaster should be cancelled. This information should always be freely and easily accessible, and that is what we had in mind when we drafted that law with assistance from civil activists and media.
Naturally, the bulk of work is still ahead — the property records have to be complete and all information should be made public. As of now, the records in many cases contain false information, sometimes it is partially or fully missing. Good thing is this hot mess is there for everyone to see and you can easily amend the data (concerning your property).
The end goal of this step is not transparency for the sake of transparency, it’s anti-corruption. In the wake of Euromaidan I published photos of my family’s appartment, car and “dacha” (cottage) online. I hope this practice becomes mandatory one day. Now the national press can regularly check on me and hundreds of other public servants to see whether anyone has suddenly acquired a pricey car or a second home. Failure to explain these acquisitions leads to such property being regarded as wealth acquired through illegal means and allows legal seizure by state.
Public spending (i.e. taxpayers money) must be transparent
All public spending (the money of the taxpaying Ukrainian citizens) must be transparent and easily monitored. The Law «On the Open Use of Public Funds» (see parliamentary archive) was put into place by our parliament. Alas, right now it’s nothing more than a piece of paper, as is the Law on transparency of property relations. The law needs to be implemented and we have to see to it. The main purpose is to finally have a transparent state budget. Every citizen must have online access to every transaction within the public spending domain. We need an efficient service that provides clear and exhaustive information on how taxes are spent by the government, state-owned enterprises, local authorities etc. as well as data on recipients of state funds, purpose and sums of transfers. That way millions of Ukrainians can effectively do what the Director of the National Anti-Corruption Bureau does – prevent misuse of public funds. Official web-portal on public spending — is a first step in that direction. We, members of the taxpaying public, have to fine-tune this portal together – clearly, it is in our own best interest to have a handy tool to control how our money is spent.
Public servants’ actions should be transparent
Every action of every public servant should be transparent and they should be held accountable by public, constantly. E-governance will cut through red tape and halve small-scale bureaucracy-related corruption. The state will stop demanding the ridiculous amount of papers and permits you have to produce now to get something done. In many cases the state agencies that make you jump through all those hoops already have all the information they need. In many more cases, there’s no need for an appointment – you should be able to get an administrative service online and monitor the whole process. That’s a very important part: you should be able to see who makes decisions, who presses the «yes» or «no» buttons. As someone who signs hundreds of papers weekly I have to say – that disciplines you. And so it should. E-government means that state will finally become a servant, not a master. That doesn’t just change the system, it’s a total revamp of the design, ideology and purpose of public administration. It’s a new vision, new mindset. This is what we are fighting for, this is why we have to win the war with Putin. The state should not be an apparatus put together as a convenient way to rob its own citizens, it should be a service.
Be it a ministry, agency or local government – if they refuse to implement e-governance, they deliberately preserve corruption. Going electronic signals whose side you’re on.
Less public servants but higher salaries
We must drastically reduce the number of public servants. And in doing so we’ll be able to substantially increase their wages. Every single one of my friends who in a last year and a half have taken up high governmental positions and who do not steal, have absolutely no idea what’s the point of most of their subordinates. Their job description and remit either date from Soviet times when the state ran every farm and café out there or were invented by bureaucratic warewolves.
Almost all of these friends cannot introduce job cuts to rid their offices of the deadweight. For this, you would need a new civil service law and good will of both the President and PM. Instead of reducing unnecessarily blown up state apparatus current PM cut salaries of public servants, pushing them towards corruption. In our parliamentary committee we identify such laws as corruptogenic.
So my friends (and myself, as a head of the parliamentary committee) have found another way out: you have to either pay a recently hired small staff, recruited mostly from people who have never been in public service, out of your own pocket or apply for grants from Western countries. That’s the only way.
There should not be that many public servants. Most of them have to be newly hired and new to the system. They should get decent salary. That’s how the new police in Kyiv works. That’s how the whole state’s supposed to work. By the way, information on the number of public servants, their duties and salaries should also be in open access online. And right now we’re working on a law that will provide that.
New judges and prosecutors
We need to re-recruit all judges and the Prosecutor General’s office. The ones working right now have an advantageous legal framework to work within and high official salaries. The problem is, most of them have become the kind of bureaucratic werewolves I mentioned before and are corrupt through and through. Together with experts we put forward a special draft amendment to the Constitution that would enable a new recruitment by an independent commission. Similarly, Ukraine needs a new bona fide Prosecutor General that will obey the laws rather than sabotage them. These steps cannot be omitted or ignored. As long as we don’t have real courts and real prosecutors, even the best laws will remain useless pieces of paper.
Remove the state from business
Remove the state from business. If we want to live in a state where “businessmen” doesn’t mean judges and prosecutors, it is important to keep the state firmly and far away from any interference in business activity. Justice, promotion of education and science, defense – those are the real problems that state should be involved in instead. Three dozen regulatory agencies should be shut down. Almost everything can be regulated by market competition. Medical insurance, when the money are paid to specific hospitals and physicians (that patients can choose freely) will eliminate corruption in healthcare. Road construction and road maintenance should be carried out by private companies, selected via fair competition. Everything except air, water, forests, natural monopolies and strategic defense enterprises must be in private ownership.
Remove the state from local communities
State must be removed from the local communities. Any village, town or city requires only one representative of the state, not a whole bunch of them. They can be called prefects, as proposed by the current President. The title doesn’t matter as long as they don’t hold a right to exercise governance. The governing functions should be given to elected councils or applied directly by community via local referendums, housing unions (which, of course, should be transferred to the joint ownership of the residents) etc. Representatives of the state should only be there to note complaints. In case there is a large-scale misuse of funds that community cannot cope with, the “prefect” should take the issue to court, inform the Prime Minister, the President. Other than that, the community should have all the rights (and tax money) to take care of its own territory. That’s what we are currently fighting for in the parliament.. Against the President, unfortunately.
We must simplify tax legislation and lower taxes. Nowadays every 1000 UHR salary costs employer 518 UHR in taxes. Hence the mass tax evasion plus corrupt state tax authorities (said authorities often profit from phantom companies and other tax fraud schemes and let them operate with impunity). Setting a +-15% social tax will remove the grounds for evasion and corruption. And it should be employees, not the employers who pay. This way everyone will be motivated to control how the money is spent.
And that bring us to Step №1
Give up corruption
You, me and everyone around us should give up corruption. Do not partake in it! Don’t bribe the police to avoid the speeding ticket (by the way, the law on automated driving fines via video surveillance was adopted, you’ll find it cheaper just not to break the driving laws, maybe?). Don’t pay off teachers and professors to get higher scores or pass exams (I plan to continue studying history and solemnly swear to pass every university test fair and square, including the one on Latin). Don’t give money to the parking lot attendant if they offer a “discount” and don’t offer a ticket, always demand a proof of payment. There is that sort of a small-scope daily “domestic” corruption and Ukrainians participate in it just because it is “easier”, not because they are forced to. If you refuse to do that, the small streams of the individual “small-scope” corruption that join up and form a monstrous swamp of national corruption will run dry.
The other 8 steps will require a lot of joint effort from civil society. There needs to be a social demand and social consciousness. We’ll have to put up a fight. But we can and we will get there.
I recently found myself in an argument with a Dutch philosopher. He’s been studying Ukraine for a long time – as a perfect example of bad governance. Two of his statements made me protest:
1. Ukraine is a more corrupt state than Russia.
2. This generation of Ukrainians won’t get rid of corruption, maybe the next one?
Let’s prove him wrong, together. We may be the change we need. We may surprise ourselves – and the whole world.