by Olena Shcherban, originally published by Zn.ua
On the way to final formation of the anti-corruption bloc
On January 16, the Commission for the competition for the position of the director to the National Anti-Corruption Bureau (NABU) approved the list of 22 candidates who will be admitted to next stages of the competition. In fact, key stages of the selection process begin from this moment. And it’s a real struggle not only for the position of the NABU’s head, but also for the purity of competition result itself. Appointment of the candidate loyal to the government could destroy the entire anti-corruption chain NACP-NABU-SAPO-HACC, which has been built over years under systematic pressure and attacks from political elites. Only in recent months, the anti-corruption bloc has begun to demonstrate systematic work (with the inclusion of the SAPO).
The Specialized Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office (SAPO) has been a weak spot for many years. At first, during the leadership of Nazar Kholodnytskyi it was accompanied by numerous scandals, and later we had no chief anti-corruption prosecutor at all. So, there were no impressive results. And today we have a real chance to start cleaning up the country for real, and the NABU should remain the driver of this process under the leadership of new director.
Nominally, Bankova is only observing what is happening within the process of the competition. But there is information that it does not always manage to keep its distance. Some participants have already received calls with offers to represent interests of the Office of the President in key section of the anti-corruption bloc. Therefore, we should not think that attempts to recruit and get their candidate to the final three are over. Everything just begins.
But let’s take one step at a time.
What is the scope of competition?
So, from 22 already registered people the Commission will have to select top three candidates to submit to the Cabinet of Ministers. Out of three the government will have to choose only one candidate to be appointed as the director of the NABU for the entire seven-year term.
The law which has been adopted more than one year ago and new selection rules defined key points. Namely, configuration of the Competition Commission and general framework of the competition. Let me remind you that the Commission consists of six people appointed by the government: three experts delegated by international partners and three Ukrainian experts.
After numerous scandals and delays with the competition for the position of the head of the SAPO, the law provided for advantages for international experts in the case regarding the NABU. The rules state that decisions are made by the majority of four members of the Commission. At the same time, the support of at least two international experts is required. If votes are equally distributed and no decision is made, the law allows decisions to be made by three votes, but it is supported by two international experts.
Based on results of ten already held meetings of the Commission, it can be noted that there are no major disagreements or battles between international and Ukrainian experts. At the same time, members of the Commission selected Ukrainian scientist Mykola Kucheryavenko as the chairman. All these facts allow us to cautiously assume that the competition can take place without confrontations that accompanied selection of the head of the SAPO. But main stages are still ahead.
Although framework of the competition is defined by the law, the latter left details to the discretion of the Commission itself. And before the competition it was the Commission that made the decision to include in the selection rules that the majority of candidates should be eliminated at stages of anonymous testing for knowledge of the law and general abilities. This approach could be criticized because testing itself is not the indicator of candidate’s qualities. On the other hand, results of previous competitions show that candidates who perform well on tests are the ones who most often make it to the final. Therefore, it is obvious that in this case it is precisely because of tests that the Commission decided to simplify its further work and limit itself to twenty people at final stages.
The tests stage also had its problems. In particular, some candidates stated that they have found mistakes during tests and filed complaints. Mistakes were indeed confirmed in four questions. In those cases where candidates received fewer points as the result of mistakes, the Commission restored justice. But in the end, mistakes did not affect the rating.
Representatives of the Anti-Corruption Action Center (AntAC) were present in the hall during the general skills test and personally verified objectivity and anonymity of the process.
In total, 78 people applied for the competition. 50 people remained after tests on knowledge of legislation, and 22 people remained after the general skills tests, because four candidates scored the same 209 points.
Who exactly was on the shortlist?
There are no very famous names or public figures on the list of candidates.
Employees of the bureau were obviously the most motivated to apply for this competition. The secret of this motivation is that it is the way for them to preserve their internal culture, values, and independence. After all, today the NABU and the SAPO remain the only “white crows” in the symbiosis of Ukrainian law enforcement system. They are the only institutions that have preserved their independence from the government, in particular due to unprecedented support of international partners.
In total, 12 out of 22 candidates are connected with the bureau. Ten are current employees of the NABU. Two others worked at the bureau before the full-scale invasion.
For instance, Ruslan Gabriyelyan is the second participant in the ranking. He used to work at the NABU, but at the beginning of invasion he mobilized into the Armed Forces of Ukraine and won the competition for the position of the SAPO prosecutor while serving in the Armed Forces.
Another candidate, Serhiy Naumyuk, was the head of one of the NABU’s departments. However, this year he was mobilized to the Security Service of Ukraine, where he had worked before.
There are some who raise significant doubts among these 22 candidates. Prior to tests, the AntAC had already written about persons to whom we had the most questions. We should note that two of them made it to the final list.
The first of them is Vitaliy Vlasyuk, deputy head of Kyiv Regional Military Administration and former lawyer. In particular, he defended the company Altaiur, which is still under investigation by the NABU, in the KDAC. Meanwhile, his brother Vladyslav Vlasyuk is currently the advisor at the Office of the President and works within Yermak-McFaul sanction group.
Another doubtful candidate is Semen Kryvonos, head of the State Inspectorate of Architecture and Urban Development. In 2016, he won the competition for the position of the head of Odesa territorial office of the NABU. However, he quickly resigned from position when journalists of Slidstvo.info had found that his assets did not correspond to his income. In particular, Kryvonos failed to declare apartment in Kyiv worth 3 million UAH, and quickly re-registered it to his mother.
The leader of the rating is currently Ruslan Kravchenko, head of Bucha Prosecutor’s Office. We should note that Kravchenko previously worked in the military prosecutor’s office during the leadership of scandalous military prosecutor Anatoliy Matios. We should recall that Matios was behind the number of attacks on the NABU during his tenure. In 2019-2020, Kravchenko applied for the position of the SAPO prosecutor, but he was not selected.
Another noticeable figure among candidates is Yuriy Belousov, who currently heads the War Department of the Prosecutor General’s Office and is responsible for organizing investigations into Russian war crimes in Ukraine. Prior to his appointment, he was executive director of the Expert Center for Human Rights.
What is next?
During the next stage, all 22 candidates have to complete practical task. It consists of two blocks. Namely: 1) testing the candidates’ mastery of professional practical skills and abilities and 2) testing the candidates’ organizational and leadership skills.
At the same time, each of candidates will be thoroughly analyzed by both the Commission and representatives of civil society. Anyone interested can send materials about candidates to the Commission at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If candidates are unable to clearly answer questions of the Commission and citizens in writing, they will be interviewed for integrity. However, the most important indicator of integrity is availability of candidate’s asset declaration. After all, even if the Parliament has suspended the declaration, it is simply impossible to imagine the director of the NABU without submitted declaration.
After the integrity assessment, all those who are in doubt should be eliminated from the competition. And those who remain will be interviewed for another round of professional competence. It is after this stage that the Commission will select three candidates, who will be submitted to the government for approval.
All these procedures will take at least one and a half to two months. Therefore, it is simply unrealistic to fulfill Denys Shmyhal’s wish to submit the final three by the end of January. This is not the first time that Shmyhal has criticized the Commission for its slow work. However, this whole game is just the attempt to divert attention from the fact that it was the government that had blocked the start of the competition for more than six months.
It is obvious that the government hopes to get at least someone in the final three with whom it could reach the agreement. But there is hope that the Commission will not give such chance to them and that internal sieve of the competition will be stronger than attempts of Bankova to pass/recruit their candidate.
Today, it seems that representative of the NABU will be able to get the position only if the final three are the bureau’s employees themselves. We, at the Anti-Corruption Action Center, expect that the final three will include only independent candidates and those who have already shown results in investigating top corruption.
Preserving and strengthening independence of the NABU in these difficult times for Ukraine cannot be underestimated. Confidence in independence of the anti-corruption agencies and their institutional capacity is and will be the key guarantee of trust in Ukraine by our Western partners, without whose help we cannot win this war.