The Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine failed to appoint an auditor of the National Anti-Corruption Bureau (NABU) on March 16th. The process itself provoked a major scandal on Ukrainian political arena. It is an important question for anti-corruption policy as the NABU auditor will examine the work of major anti-corruption structure in Ukraine.
According to the law, the National Anti-corruption Bureau of Ukraine which began operating 8 months ago, requires an annual audit conducted by an independent auditors. One of the three auditors is elected by the Parliament.
The two candidates put forward to the Ukrainian Parliament are Robert Storch, the Deputy Inspector-General of America, and Nigel Brown, a former Scotland Yard detective who is thought to be a candidate supported by the President’s Administration.
The purpose of the audit is to assess the overall effectiveness of NABU. The independent auditors will examine the state of criminal proceedings and the way in which detectives from the Bureau carry out investigations. They will also determine the effectiveness of the Bureau’s Director, Artem Sytnyk.
After two failed elections, the Ukrainian Parliament has not yet managed to select an auditor. The successful candidate will need to have received the majority 226 votes. The latest election took place on 21st March.
Hromadske spoke to Artem Sytnyk, Director of the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine about the audit conflict.
The National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine has been featured on every TV program and front page in recent weeks, if not months now. Of course, this has been due to Onyshchenko and Nasirov cases, but first of all, it’s been due to NABU auditor appointment. How can political conflict such as this arise from the issue of auditor selection?
NABU is not a political player in any conflict, but, in my opinion as a director of the NABU, and as a citizen of Ukraine, the reason for this is the fact there was an open competition for a NABU auditor, announced by the anti-corruption parliamentary committee, that was to be chosen by the parliament. All of us know that commission of external control, which annually assesses the work of the NABU, consists of the candidates chosen by the parliament, president and government. So the parliamentary anti-corruption committee held a competition and selected Robert Storch as their candidate and recommended that people vote for him. But, on the 23rd February, someone new turned up, who nobody knew, it didn’t appear transparent, or fair, it seemed like a farce. I think it was these circumstances, not Brown himself or his past, but this non-transparent way of appointing an auditor to be chosen by the parliament, that was the issue. Two questions immediately arise. 1) Why was there an open competition? 2) How can a candidate be appointed when he entered the parliamentary hall 5 minutes before voting began? I think these are the reasons for all the events that followed and the fierce disputes.
Talking about the procedure itself, we are not afraid of any inspections. We are ready to provide all the legally appointed NABU auditors with all the materials they need, within the limits of law on state secrets, personal data protection, and, taking into account the principle of secrecy in investigation. In fact, we’ve never supported any of the candidates; we haven’t recommended anybody, as we have no right to do that. The only thing we want is for the political establishment, international partners and civil to not doubt the legitimacy of the candidates. I suppose this is the most important thing.
What will the auditors be checking? And what could give them a reason to say that Artem Sytnyk should no longer be the Director of NABU?
Frankly speaking, the procedure of the NABU audit isn’t described well in the law. The formula for the commission’s actions, the materials they collect for auditing, aren’t described properly. The only thing which is described more or less specifically is that the commission of external control checks and draws conclusion on the efficiency of NABU’s work, and on its institutional independency. Talking about the latter, it seems to me that the events in the parliament prove that we are institutionally independent. If we weren’t independent then there would be no farce in parliament. It seems to me that it’s a very good example which proves that we are an independent institution, as required by law. Talking about the efficiency, it’s more about judgement calls; a lot of factors are to be taken into account when making an assessment. In my opinion, comparative methods should be used for this, a comparison with the creation and functioning of anti-corruption institutions in other countries.
For instance, Romania, Latvia, Lithuania, which have specialized anti-corruption institutions. How long did it take to create them? There is no country in the world where a fully-fledged law enforcement institution could start investigations just 8 months after being launched.
/Translated by Olga Kuchmagra