Corruption in Law

In his article for Ukrainsky Tyzhden, Oleksandr Mikhelson comments that according to Tao, the process of achieving ones goal can be more important than the result, and suggests that the fight against corruption in Ukraine is following this principle.

This week the Verkhovna Rada did not manage to adopt the much trumpeted draft law on fighting corruption submitted by President Yanukovych. This was despite the fact that the day before, meeting with the leaders of the party factions, Yanukovych had publicly stated that the law needed to be passed “as soon as possible”. Technically there had been the possibility of doing so the next day. Yet several of the most fundamental provisions will be considered by April and it is difficult to predict what the outcome will be.


The package of anti-corruption laws whose adoption GRECO (the Group of Council of Europe Countries against Corruption) has been actively demanding from Ukraine, was adopted the year before last. Yet it never began working, with its entry into force being postponed twice, and then in December 2010, several days before it was to come into effect, it was cancelled altogether. So clumsily at that that they removed the profile law passed back in 1995 as well. The latter deserves separate commentary.


The 21 December 2010 law which cancelled the package of anti-corruption laws came into effect only on 5 January 2011. That means that for all of four days the package of laws was in force. It had no time to make any impact on the level of corruption, but was there long enough to cancel the 1995 Law on Fighting Corruption. At least it is with such comments that the relevant State acts are placed in the Verkhovna Rada database. Thus at present there is practically no anti-corruption legislation in Ukraine at all. With the exception, of course, of the Criminal Code regarding bribe-taking and other official crimes, however that is a somewhat narrowing topic.


At the same time in December Viktor Yanukovych tabled a new anti-corruption law which according to deputies who are lawyers was largely a repeat of that cancelled. At first glance it is hard to fathom why the Guarantor of the Constitution and the obedient parliamentary majority needed to first declare null and void the existing laws subjecting Ukraine to criticism from Europe and then begin from scratch considering documents with analogous content.


It is however well-known that some points of the new draft law, taken from the acts which were cancelled, have enormously worried those in power. This concerns first and foremost the requirement to declare no only income, but also expenditure. Nor merely for those in power, but also for members of their families. The latter norm was already trimmed during the first reading of the draft law on 23 December: The wives, brothers, children and other relatives of potential corrupt dealers will not have to declare anything. Yet even in this form the document did not satisfy the legislators.


Therefore, considering the draft law in its second reading on 15 March, the parliamentarians deferred discussion of Articles 11 and 12 – those dealing specifically with financial control over expenditure of officials and representatives of local self-government. At the proposal of the Speaker, Volodymyr Lytvyn, those points were returned to the profile committee to be considered in a “repeat second reading”.


Article 1 of the draft law which contains definitions of the terms was also postponed. And, finally, the “Transitional Provisions”, which establish the timeframe for entry into force, were returned to the committee.

Now the final review of the draft law can only take place in the plenary week beginning on 4 April. Meanwhile, declarations on income are submitted by the first of that month. Thus declaration by those in power of income and expenditure according to the new rules, even if parliament does pass them, will only begin in a year. And a lot can happen in one year.

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