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Parliament restores asset declarations but fails to make them public

by Elsa Court and The Kyiv Independent news desk September 5, 2023 6:25 PM 2 min read
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky addresses the Ukrainian Parliament in Kyiv, Ukraine on Dec. 28, 2022. (Ukrainian Presidency / Handout/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
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The Ukrainian parliament on Sept. 5 approved the second reading of a bill to restore asset declarations for officials but failed to make them public.

Under the bill, there will be no public access to officials' asset declarations for one more year, and only law enforcement agencies will be able to check them. They cannot be accessed by media and anti-corruption watchdogs.

Restoring asset declarations has been central to talks on Ukraine's accession to the European Union and borrowing money from the International Monetary Fund. Anti-corruption watchdogs and opposition MPs argue that the EU and IMF are unlikely to accept the bill in this form.

Yaroslav Zheleznyak, an MP from the Holos party, said that he was not sure the IMF would interpret the bill as the implementation of one of its conditions for lending. He added that the bill was likely to be vetoed by President Volodymyr Zelensky and sent back to parliament.

Yaroslav Yurchyshyn, another MP for the Holos party, said that lawmakers were "obviously afraid to show their fortunes acquired during the full-scale war."

Transparency International Ukraine, an anti-corruption watchdog, said that the bill envisaged a "sham" restoration of declarations.

"Our foreign partners are unlikely to consider these actions by parliament as a real step towards European integration and effective cooperation with the IMF," the watchdog said.

Anti-corruption activists believe that restoring public access is necessary as it would make the system more effective. Although government agencies are supposed to check asset declarations, they are expected to do that better if there is public pressure.

Electronic asset declarations for officials were instituted as part of the country's fight against corruption following the 2014 EuroMaidan Revolution.

All state officials were required to declare their assets as part of the reform.

At the start of the full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, the requirement for submitting e-declarations was suspended and public access to the declarations was shut down. Officials have still been able to submit them on a voluntary basis.

In February 2023, an online petition for requiring state officials to resume filing their asset declarations collected the 25,000 signatures necessary for presidential consideration.

The bill on the restoration of asset declarations was passed in the first reading on July 27. To become law, bills must be passed by parliament in two readings and signed by the president.

Officials accused of using war as pretext for hiding ill-gotten wealth
As Ukrainian soldiers are defending their homeland on the front line, officials in the rear are accused of using the war as a pretext for hiding their wealth. They are able to do so because one of Ukraine’s main anti-corruption tools, the asset declaration system, has been effectively eliminated.
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