An IMF-backed reform forcing Ukrainian politicians and officials to declare their assets online is facing what some lawmakers and anti-corruption activists say are persistent attempts to sabotage it, according to Reuters.
”There is an attempt to discredit the system in order to destroy it technically, physically,” said Viktor Chumak, an independent lawmaker and the deputy head of the parliament`s committee on fighting corruption, Pavel Polityuk and Margaryta Chornokondratenko wrote in an article titled ”Time to declare: Ukrainian anti-corruption reform faces threats,” published by Reuters on Monday, October 24.
The reform has faced hostility from the start, and the original August launch date was delayed because the software wasn`t given security clearance. Several lawmakers introduced bills to try to water the reform down and others want it delayed.
The system finally went live in September but MPs say it is full of problems that make it difficult to complete the form properly. Its designer says those problems were introduced after he handed control of the software to the authorities.
The consequences of Ukraine missing the October 30 deadline for some 50,000 people to declare their wealth may be far-reaching, and the prospect of that happening prompted the EU to send an urgent letter to the speaker of parliament.
The International Monetary Fund sees the deadline as a ”structural benchmark,” and failing to meet it would weaken the case for the IMF to disburse more aid as part of a $17.5 billion bailout by the end of this year.
Artem Shevalev, Ukraine`s representative to the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, said it didn`t look feasible for Ukraine to implement difficult reforms such as the asset declaration system by then.
”When I read some of the feedback from some of my colleagues in Kyiv it is clear it is very difficult technically, but also the level of disclosure is unprecedented,” Shevalev said.
”It`s anything, literally anything, even down to every piece of jewelry you have.”
The EU has linked the reform to granting a visa-free regime to Ukraine. If the reform fails, it would add to the impression that Kyiv`s Western-backed leaders do not have the will to tackle corruption. Other measures, such as privatizing state companies or cleaning up the customs service, also face threats.
”It is absolutely obvious for me that the president`s declarations to the international community, that the system would operate fully, are artificial in order to create an image that Ukraine is fulfilling its obligations,” said Oleksandra Drik, head of the Civic Lustration Committee, an anti-corruption body.
Politicians have had to fill in asset declaration forms before, but the new one is more comprehensive and carries prison sentences for false statements.
President Petro Poroshenko told local television on Sunday that the form was not perfect and he didn`t much like it.
”But it cannot be a reason not to fill it in,” he said, and he would submit his on time.
As of Monday, just over half the 50,000 declarations had been submitted. Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman said his was almost done.