Chicken or the Egg: Does Ukraine Need an Anti-Corruption Court?

Chicken or the Egg Does Ukraine Need an Anti-Corruption Court.jpg

As you may already know, Ukrainian Parliament has voted today to establish the anti-corruption court in Ukraine. Once we have the final text of the law, it will be clear whether the deputies took into consideration recommendations of the expert community and international partners actively communicated during last months in an effort to save the idea of the transparent and impartial anti-corruption court. In the meantime, I want to share with you some thoughts I have been reflecting on lately in this respect.  

When you think of it from a broader perspective, while the world is hunting for talent and new technologies with high added value, Ukraine is focusing on agricultural raw materials and dreams of becoming a world’s breadwinner. During times when countries around the world are promoting electro cars and automating court decisions, Ukraine is flooded with used cars on European plates and, until recently, considered five draft bills on the establishment of an anti-corruption court.

I do not want to sound negative and I really appreciate positive changes in Ukraine over the last decades (you may refer for a brief overview of a number of them in the one of my previous posts), but I am wondering whether our country is really moving in the right direction? Do we really need to dedicate all these efforts to establish the anti-corruption court and make it work in a proper manner, or there are some other priorities which should be on the top of our agenda?

In the pursuit of the answer to above questions, I did a quick research on countries that have an anti-corruption court and managed to find quite a few of them, in particular: Philippines, Pakistan, Indonesia, Malaysia, Croatia, Slovakia, Bulgaria, Mexico, and Kenia. Then I decided to check standing of those countries in the latest ranking of Corruption Perception Index by Transparency International. Here are the results: Slovakia (54), Croatia (57), Malaysia (62), Bulgaria (71), Indonesia (96), Philippines (111), Pakistan (117), Mexico (135), Kenia (143). By the way, Ukraine ranks 130, between Pakistan and Mexico.

Don’t you find it strange that countries from top 10-20-30 of the ranking do not have an anti-corruption court? Why are we planning to take an example from countries occupying mostly the second half of the ranking, while the countries from the top of the rating do not have anti-corruption courts?  It strikes me as quite odd state of affairs.

What magic do we expect from anti-corruption court in Ukraine, if similar institutions, in my opinion, failed to bring a significant improvement for the countries who opted for them in the past? Is it not just another example of an eyewash and imitation of reforms? I am convinced that if we are focusing on the consequences of corruption and not on its root causes, it will take us ages to defeat corruption, since we will be running in circles. 

Would not it be more strategically appropriate and relevant to focus on corruption prevention rather than enforcement, especially during times when new technologies and IT potential of Ukraine are booming? To rephrase a well-known call on Kyiv central railway station “it is clean not where people are cleaning, but where people are not littering” - “there is no corruption not where you fight it, but where you prevent it”.

I am convinced that there the room for a corruption offence is significantly smaller where unnecessary or outdated permitting procedure is eliminated, where the decision is made not by an individual, but by a machine or an algorithm.

I believe that most effective changes came from the bottom to the top, and not vice-versa. It remains to be seen whether anti-corruption court will prove to be effective or not (I hope it will), but we hardly will be able to tackle corruption in Ukraine without a widespread educational campaign and change of our mindset from fighting to prevention.

Stay tuned for the developments in this field and be compliant!


Volodymyr Grabchak is a legal counsel with an international FMCG company, responsible, inter alia for anti-corruption compliance issues in Ukraine and Moldova. He got his law degree in Ukraine and LL.M. degree in the Netherlands. 

Volodymyr is attorney at law admitted to Ukrainian Bar and a member of the International Bar Association (IBA).