Thursday, April 22, 2010

President: Corruption threatens national security and constitutional order

In his speech the President stressed that fighting corruption in Ukraine remains the main nationwide problem. "This is the issue that directly affects the interests of every citizen and has been a "national headache"," he said.

Viktor Yanukovych is convinced that both social-economic and political reforms depend on successful solution of this problem.

"Chronic corruption has already become an ordinary part of our life," he said, reminding that Ukraine has a worldwide reputation of "an extremely corrupt country", reflected in our consistently low ratings in the influential international studies.

The President said the statistics of violations involving corruption are often distorted meaning that real work to expose corruption offenses, including the ones committed by senior officials, is substituted with bringing up cases against only minor officers.

The President named fiscal system among the most corrupt ones in Ukraine. "It’s a well known fact that the most common pattern of plundering budgetary resources is VAT refunding, however, no decisive steps to eliminate it have been taken yet. And everyone pretends that nothing is happening, and no wonder, since it’s convenient," he said.

President Yanukovych also said the State Reserve is being plundered, criticized manipulations with budgetary funds and driving most state monopolies into near bankruptcy. In this context, Viktor Yanukovych reminded the situation with Naftogaz Ukraine. "Its bankruptcy is unnatural altogether. It is a profitable organization. But why do we see losses instead? I am awaiting a response from the Prosecutor General and law enforcement bodies and demand to immediately bring perpetrators to justice according to the law," stressed the President.

Viktor Yanukovych also called bribery an acute problem. He reminded that last year law enforcement officers exposed over two thousand cases of bribery, but the courts convicted only 690 persons. "I expect the Interior Ministry, Security Service and Prosecutor General’s Office to essentially strengthen their work in this regard," he said.

According to the Head of State, the Interior Ministry and Security Service are also to open "phone hotlines" for citizens to report corruption and bribery. "It is crucial to establish a system of immediate and qualified response to such signals," said President Yanukovych.

President Yanukovych dedicated special attention to combating corruption in the courts.

He reminded that the National Anti-Corruption Committee received a package of bills on fighting corruption from the Ministry of Justice. "This package sets the basic principles of combating corruption and defines strategic objectives in this area," he said.

After today's meeting Viktor Yanukovych intends to sign a decree summarizing the meeting’s results and providing public authorities with immediate tasks on combating corruption, he said. The Head of State stressed the importance of establishing a public body to supervise this work.

Viktor Yanukovych also said it is crucial to get regular objective analytic updates on combating corruption in the state. "Based on this information 2010-2012 national strategy of preventing and combating corruption must be prepared," said the President, adding that the existing legislative framework also needs to be improved in order to expand law enforcement bodies’ authority in combating corruption.

"Among the urgent issues currently remain achieving objectivity and transparency of state authorities’ decision-making, efficiency of state and municipal property management, wise use of budgetary funds and so on. Leading role in this process should be given to the public," said the President.

"Fighting corruption is a vital issue for the whole society, as now this phenomenon really threatens national security and constitutional order in Ukraine," summed up President Yanukovych.

From his part, Executive Secretary of the National Anti-Corruption Committee, Justice Minister Oleksandr Lavrynovych said: "The fight against corruption in Ukraine should focus on eliminating the causes of corruption phenomena." He believes that all administrative officials should be motivated properly so that entrepreneurs or citizens in general just wouldn’t be pushed to solve their issues through bribing particular official, judge, etc.

"Obviously, we should start with modifying provisions of the Ukrainian legislation," said the minister. According to him, these are, for example the order of hiring citizens to law enforcement bodies, public services, the positions of judges and their further promotion – "to prevent the motivation to get back the money once spent on obtaining the appropriate status and opportunities to decide the fate of others."

"We dedicated attention to those positions which either substantially limited the rights of Ukrainian citizens, or created additional motivation for corruption within law enforcement bodies," said Minister Lavrynovych, referring to the suggestions considered at today's meeting.

In his turn, the head of contact group of Transparency International in Ukraine Oleksiy Khmara supported the idea of enlargement of the national anti-corruption committee by engaging experts from the public – both Ukrainian and foreign, that could assist in this process.

"The question of preventing corruption doesn’t only concern prosecution of corruptionists but also the creation of mechanisms to halt corruption," he said.