Ukrainian officials still concealing their finances

The Office of the Verkhovna Rada has refused to provide information requested by journalists about the income of all National Deputies, citing the Law on Personal Data Protection as their grounds. This refusal is to be appealed in the courts. Members of the New Citizen partnership point to infringements by officials of the Public Information Act.

As reported, New Citizen has been running a campaign on implementation and popularization of the Law on Access to Public Information. Its results give grounds for concluding “infringements, arbitrary treatment and overt disregard by those in power of the Law’s norms”.

New Citizen Coordinator, Svitlana Zalishchuk says that the lack of tradition among officials for accounting to the public for their actions is the main reason why the Law is not effective.

“These people must earn money honestly. What they declare should reflect the real situation and they as elected representatives, as those people who got into parliament and took on the obligations of National Deputies, must be open to the public. They are obliged to publish and declared such income”.

According to lawyer from the Institute for Mass Information, Roman Holovenko, implementation of the law is impeded by poor political culture both among officials, and the public itself. “There is no incentive for fully applying this law and at least familiarizing oneself with it so that members of the public can make efficient use of access to public information.
Mustafa Nayem, journalist from Ukrainska Pravda, says that the most common grounds for refusing to provide information, and thus avoid public accountability is that personal data is involved.

“We must train specific people to answer specific information requests. We need to act in accordance with the law, both we journalists and Deputies, the Verkhovna Rada”.

New Citizen plans to lodge information requests regarding the income of the heads of regional administrations, their deputies, as well as the mayors of all regional centres. Representatives of the partners also believe it necessary to carry out journalist investigations into whether the declared income corresponds with the real state of affairs.

“As citizens, we have obligations to the authorities, including in paying the salaries of National Deputies. Similarly journalist members of the public have the right to demand that the authorities fulfil their obligations to the public”, Svitlana Zalishchuk stresses.

The Law on Access to Public Information came into force on 9 May 2011, but there is still no hurry to disclose a lot of information.

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