The day before the final stage of the crucial selection of Ukraine’s new anti-corruption prosecutor on 21 December, a court with a scandalous reputation invalidated the entire selection process. This potentially leaves a key element of Ukraine’s anti-corruption system disfunctional, as well as puts Ukraine’s relations with the IMF in the air.
However, the decision of the court in question, the Kyiv District Administrative Court, which is accused of perennially serving the interests of the ruling elites, does not enter into force until the decision of an appeals court, so legally the meeting of the selection committee set to finally announce the winner of the competition to the Special Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office (SAPO) can go ahead. Several G7 ambassadors have already promised to attend the meeting in person.
In its decision, the Kyiv District Administrative Court stated that since 2015, the selection committee (the defendant in the case) was deprived of the authority to adopt the contested procedure due to a change of legislature. At the same time, the law did not specify the body to which such powers would be delegated.
Tomorrow, at its meeting, the selection committee was slated to hold the final interviews for the position of the heart of SAPO. Oleksandr Klymenko is expected to win, regardless of the result. Klymenko, a detective of the National Anti-Corruption Bureau (NABU), had led an investigation into a case of possible corruption of Oleg Tatarov, the deputy Head of President Zelenskyy’s Office, in the case of theft of nearly UAH 80 mn ($2.9 mn) during the construction of housing for the National Guard. The advantage in his scores does not leave a chance for his competitor Andriy Syniuk, a prosecutor in the Prosecutor General’s Office.
Vitaliy Shabunin, leader of the NGO Anti-Corruption Action Center, which had exposed many manipulations around the contest, had earlier stated that the scenario of using the loyal Kyiv District Administrative Court was likely to be used by the President’s Office to disrupt the selection of Ukraine’s new anti-corruption prosecutor.
Shabunin maintains that a part of the 11-member commission appointed by the quota of the Verkhovna Rada, where President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s party holds a majority, have been interfering in the selection process in order to not allow an enemy of Tatarov to win the contest.
“I am sure that tomorrow the part of the commission controlled by Bankova will delay the meeting, citing the decision of the Kyiv District Administrative Court.
The disruption of the contest will have catastrophic consequences for the power of Zelenskyy/Yermak (and the rest of the participants of this process). Unfortunately, this can impact the entire country.
Once again, this is not that much about the disruption of the contest for the head of SAPO — this is the destruction of our relations with the West during Russian aggression, which means treason,” Shabunin posted on Facebook.
President Zelenskyy and the President’s Office had reacted to the decision of the Kyiv District Administrative Court invalidating the contest procedure with a statement saying that they are “most interested in the competition commission completing all the necessary procedures by the end of the year, determining the most worthy candidate for the position of head of the SAPO” and that they do not see any grounds for protracting the selection.
On December 20, the US embassy announced on Twitter that diplomats of the USA and other countries from the G7 will take part in the SAPO head Selection Commission.
Particularly, Christina Quinn, US Charge d’affaires in Ukraine, has told in an interview with Suspilne she is awaiting the selection of the Head of SAPO, which would be a “very important signal for the external world and Ukrainians” that Ukraine is moving forward and is serious about the battle against corruption.
The position of the head of SAPO, an institution created in 2015 as part of Ukraine’s new anti-corruption architecture, has been vacant since August 2020, when its head Nazar Kholodnytskyi resigned. An independent selection process to select a new SAPO head has been a crucial issue for Ukraine’s reform agenda, as well as its western partners.
Particularly, finishing this appointment before the start of December 2021 is one of the key requirements of the IMF’s agreement with Ukraine. Ukraine also promised in September 2021 to elect the head of the SAPO, as revealed in the joint statement after a meeting between Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and US President Joe Biden.
However, the process was constantly delayed. The Anti-Corruption Prevention center claimed that on October 9, members of the commission “controlled by the President’s Office” had disrupted a key stage of the competition for SAP head. On the same day, President Zelenskyy stated he had not heard adequate explanations for this delay.