5 Practical Takeaways from International Anti-Corruption Conference Held in Ukraine

Preventing, Fighting, Acting” – this is the motto of the International Anti-corruption Conference held November 16 in Kyiv. The event gathered top officials, foreign anti-corruption experts, business representatives, and media. The conference reflected on the main demand from society and business – “acting”, by delivering a strong message, that “we are doing hell a lot of things and they will soon deliver.

Here are my practical takeaways for those of you who could not attend the event. If you are interested in more details, you can watch the recorded event online.

(1) The right tone from the top

Any corporation needs the right tone from the top and I would say that Ukraine does not differ in this regard. The President of Ukraine, the Prime Minister, the Minister of Justice, the Deputy Head of the President’s Administration, the Director of the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine (NABU) and other officials have been responsibly telling about prevention from and enforcement against corruption. However, the tone from the top’s crucial part is also leading by example. This means acting thyself in compliance with the established rules. Given numerous allegations about corruption in the government, such tone is hardly convincing so far.

(2) President’s solution for corruption in Ukrainian courts

In Ukraine, only 5% of citizens fully trust in courts’ integrity. This is the lowest trust index among governmental institutions. The poll was conducted under request of the Center of political and legal reforms in July 2015 by GFK Ukraine (the questionnaire was developed by USAID “Fair justice”.)

The main discussion about battling corruption in courts is around independence of judges. While this “independence” concept is at times confusing the President Poroshenko said: “In the courts’ reform we propose from one side to withdraw any possibility of political influence on the career of a judge. From another, we take away the immunity from a judge and broaden the list of reasons for bringing them to liability.

Considering the quote above, withdrawing the immunity seems to be required to ensure “independence of judges from bribe givers”. Currently the judges are not afraid to take bribes and this has to be changed. Alternative opinion has been expressed by my colleague, who says that considering non-reformed law enforcement authorities this might be not the best choice and may lead to total control over the justice system. Let us see what would be people's perception of corruption in courts next year.

(3) Confidential reporting of corruption

More and more organizations proactively propose their assistance as intermediaries in anonymous reporting of corruption offences. American Chamber of Commerce is considering such tool, Business Ombudsman Council actively offers their help in this regards, Transparency International Ukraine helps with detailed information where to report, etc.

It is a question although what level of confidentiality such non-governmental institutions offer. Algirdas Semeta, Business Ombudsman in Ukraine informed that the draft memorandum on cooperation between Business Ombudsman and NABU is at discussion stage. The same was confirmed by Artem Sytnyk, Director of NABU, during our conversation. Hopefully the memorandum is signed and establishes confidentiality reporting framework.

So far I would recommend being very careful with whom you share and what kind of information. This has to be a privileged channel in order not to harm the business you serve.  Historically, there were cases where non-intelligent behavior in bribe demanding situation caused blocking or losing the business.

(4) National Anti-Corruption Bureau will soon open out its wings

As of today NABU is paralyzed due to non-appointment of Special Anti-Corruption Prosecutor. Hopefully, he (or she) will be appointed in December and the bureau will be able to conduct investigating activities.

Let me tell you a short story that happened to us at the end of the event. My colleagues and I, while having snacks and coffee, were approached by the newly appointed detectives of NABU. It was my mentioning this blog during business session of the conference that has drawn their attention.

We openly asked them whether NABU has something in its pocket as a lot of time has passed already. The response was quite intriguing as they said that “country will see soon that there were not sleeping”. Honestly, I liked the attitude as well as the fact that investigators were actively persuading us to report corruption related matters to NABU.

It seems that NABU’s employees are eager to rush into the fight. I hope that these guys help Ukraine to reshape outdated law enforcement system, improve investment climate and will gain even better trust from the business and citizen than the new Police.

(5) Broad deregulation is a huge preventive measure

Much has been said about deregulation in all kind of engagements with public authorities. Honestly, I did not think so many simplifications have been announced or implemented. All these measures including digitization of public services shall help reducing possibilities for both demand and supply sides of corruption.

To conclude, let me share with you words of my fellow colleague, a partner of top tier law firm: “The storm is coming. This is as if we were on the ship and would see a storm far away. One could deny it saying that nothing is happening. But when it reaches, those ignoring will be washed out of the boat.