Appointment of Ukraine’s Anti-Corruption Prosecutor chief again blocked in what anti-graft activists say is President’s Office’s fault

SAPO anti-corruption prosecutor Ukraine

A meeting of the selection commission for the Head of the Special Anti-Corruption Prosecutor's Office 

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On 24 December, the relevant commission has again failed to appoint Ukraine’s new Anti-Corruption Prosecutor chief. Despite the contest results for the position of Head of the Special Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office (SAPO) being clear, the commission did not approve their results. Anti-corruption activists say that the President’s Office has made repeated attempts to disrupt the contest to one of Ukraine’s key anti-corruption posts that is a precondition for Ukraine’s cooperation with international agencies.

None of the proposed draft decisions of the commission received the required number of votes. The meeting was postponed, but its time and date have not yet been determined.

This is not the first time the commission failed to approve the results of the contest granting victory to Oleksandr Klymenko, a detective of the National Anti-Corruption Bureau (NABU) leading an investigation into possible corruption violations of Oleg Tatarov, deputy head of the President’s Office. On 21 December, the commission convened but failed to approve the results of the contest which show Klymenko as the clear winner, as he received 246 points. The runner-up Andriy Syniuk, a prosecutor of the Prosecutor General’s Office, got 229 points.

Anti-corruption prosecutor chief selection committee fails to approve clear winner; activists point fingers at President

International representatives in the selection commission (yet again) expressed surprise that it is impossible to formally approve the results of an already completed competition and insisted on a second vote. This motion also failed.

The chair of the commission Kateryna Koval stated that she has not received information from the personnel department on the special inspection of candidates. Koval also referred to the decision of the Kyiv District Administrative Court, a scandalous institution known for serving the interests of the ruling elites, which effectively blocked the election of the head of SAPO. “If we have a court decision, let’s follow the court’s decision,” she added.

Mykhailo Zhernakov, head of the DEJURE Foundation, wrote in a Facebook post that adoption of the decision was blocked because the commission members delegated by the Parliament who are considered to be dependent on the President’s Office simply did not raise their hands.

In an earlier interview with Euromaidan Press, Zhernakov claimed he is certain that President Zelenskyy is involved in the failure to approve the contest results.

Zhernakov also enumerated the things Zelenskyy should do immediately to make sure the appointment happens, as it is a critical precondition of Ukraine’s cooperation with its western partners:

  1. To fire Oleg Tatarov, who is responsible for the law enforcement bloc in the President’s Office, for unsatisfactory work;
  2. To call on the relevant committee of the Verkhovna Rada to convene an extraordinary meeting and to recommend adopting his bill to liquidate the Kyiv District Administrative Court, which has been sitting without a motion in the parliament for nine months;
  3. To call upon the law enforcement agencies to investigate the “illegal and anti-state” acts of the commission members, judges, and others, who are blocking the appointment of a new Head of the SAPO.

In an analysis titled “Bankova thwarted the appointment of the SAPO chief contest winner Oleksandr Klymenko a second time,” the Anti-Corruption Action Center (ANTAC) explained that during the meeting, commission chair Kateryna Koval read aloud a letter in which the winner of the contest Oleksandr Klymenko tells about requests from the Prosecutor General’s Office and the contest commission to conduct a repeated special inspection of his candidacy.

Klymenko asked the National Agency on Corruption Prevention (NAZK) to explain why this was needed, and NAZK answered that there are no legal grounds for such a measure.

ANTAC reminded that Ms. Koval already said that the commission has received all these documents on a special inspection, and says that Koval’s requirement that Klymenko resubmits the documents creates a legal conundrum by which his appointment may be impossible, for instance, if the Prosecutor General’s Office says there are no grounds for resubmitting the documents on a special inspection that it already has.

There were three projects that the Commission voted for, ANTAC explains.

  • Two “normal” ones, by which Klymenko would be appointed without problems. The members of the commission ANTAC says are controlled by Bankova did not vote for these;
  • One project proposed by Koval will block the contest. It was not supported by the independent members of the commission.

“You know very well that you will not receive these documents from the Prosecutor General’s Office. You read the NAZK letter, which you did not want to read because you know very well what it contains. Now you are referring again to a new special inspection, but there is a part that will never allow you to submit applications for the candidates to the Prosecutor General’s Office. You received all the confirmations from the Prosecutor General’s Office a month ago,” summed up Drago Kos, a international member of the commission, addressing the commission’s chair Kateryna Koval.

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 anti-corruption prosecutor chief, 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.  On 10 December, the commission’s meeting was delayed once again. This followed ANTAC’s announcement on 3 December that it has proof that the President’s Office plans to falsify the results of the contest for the Head of SAPO.

On 21 December, the selection process was invalidated by the Kyiv District Administrative Court in what Mykhailo Zhernakov says is a decision with no legal grounds. On the same day, the SAPO selection commission failed to approve the clear winner Oleksandr Klymenko.

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