My “new” regional prosecutor’s office

Originally published at Ukrainska Pravda

by ARTEM KARTASHOV, attorney, member of the attestation commission

Immediately after the reform of the Prosecutor General’s Office, the reform of regional prosecutor’s offices began. It was held in 3 stages. Namely: testing for knowledge and ability to apply the law, general aptitude test and interview (practical task and integrity check).

12 commissions were created to conduct interviews. Each commission consisted of 6 members, namely: 3 representatives of the public and 3 representatives of the Prosecutor General’s Office. I was also a member of one of the commissions.

And if stages of testing excluded about 20% of prosecutors, interviews turned into the process of legalization of existing staff of regional prosecutor’s offices by public hands (including mine) .

It is important to state that the interview stage took place under the guidance of the Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova, who had more time than her predecessor to organize the process of interviews.

Despite this fact, problems began at the stage of performing practical task. First days of interviews showed that most prosecutors wrote identical answers to tasks, which caused the commission to make objective assumptions about their early awareness about answers.

And such assumptions were confirmed. Practical tasks and answers to them (which separate personnel commission had to pull on the video recording from sealed envelopes every day) were recorded in advance on Google disk of one of prosecutors and were available online.

After the appeal to the Prosecutor General, tasks were replaced by … those used during the certification of prosecutors of the Prosecutor General’s Office which were also freely available.

Moreover, the complexity of such tasks was “impressive”. Most of them were to copy from the Criminal Procedure Code (which prosecutors were allowed to use) the article or several parts of it.

At the same time, some prosecutors still managed to answer these questions incorrectly.

In less than one month commissions conducted interviews with about 220 prosecutors from different regions, different specializations and ranks. They interviewed 15 persons in one day. The commission had 45 minutes for each and could continue the interview (postpone to another day).

Such speed led to the work in “turbo speed” and of course it was reflected in the result. The lack of training wasn’t the advantage of the commission’s work either. The commission improvised on many issues (with some exceptions).

Some work tools of the commission provided by the legislator were de facto “dead”. For instance, the right of member of the commission or commission to gather information because, firstly, there was simply not enough time for it, and secondly, the legislation did not specify the period within which the answer had to be provided.

Also, in my opinion, the amount of information as for the prosecutor to conduct interview with him was, to put it mildly, insufficient.

By no means I don’t say that I want to convey that dismissed prosecutors as the result of interviews were assessed in biased manner. On the contrary, even with such limited amount of information, the commission had reason to make negative decisions regarding them.

However, if members of the commission had appropriate amount of information, the number of prosecutors, who would not have passed interviews, should have been higher.

Moreover, despite possibility of sending anonymous appeals to the prosecutor (both positive and negative), the attestation process itself was not in fact covered in the media and did not reach to stakeholders, namely: bar associations, business ombudsmen, etc. As the result, the certification went almost unnoticed and such positive mechanism was not involved.

Voting of individual members of the public in commissions was also unexpected problem. In order the prosecutor pass the interview successfully, he had to get at least 4 votes, namely, at least 1 vote had to be from public representative. And sometimes such votes were for very doubtful candidates.

Regarding the content of interviews. Probably, many people got used to successful businessmen-relatives of prosecutors or their “interesting” behavior, but some prosecutors were simply impressive.

People who position themselves as “salt of the earth” in everyday life and demand appropriate treatment have shown, for instance, miracles of amnesia regarding property, “uncomfortable” criminal cases or even “trump” car numbers: “I don’t know how it happened” , “I don’t remember”, “forgot”, etc.

Prosecutor’s Office of Khmelnytskyi region prepared in very interesting way. There was massive outbreak of disability. Several dozen prosecutors registered this status.

Commission was especially surprised when prosecutors came to interview dressed in trousers with shiny Brioni plate or not cheap watch and told how “they can afford things for maximum of one thousand or two thousand hryvnias”.

We were also surprised by prosecutors or even leadership of the prosecutor’s office, who positioned themselves as “storm of crime”, found many reasons why some high-profile issues under their control were not solved.

However, the most insolent thing is that these explanations were suitable for already certified prosecutors.

The position like illicit gain or abuse of power is perceived by certified prosecutors as “satisfaction for serving to the state” says a lot.

No less eloquent is behavior of some already certified members of commissions-prosecutors, who on the one hand in order to save their colleagues did not neglect to go into personals and throw hysterics, and on the other hand could not help but congratulate the leadership of the regional prosecutor’s office with his birthday on the video (not a joke).

The main reason why this reform will unlikely lead to positive results is invariance of the philosophy of the prosecutor’s office, which is set primarily by the leadership.

Basing on position and behavior of the leadership of the Prosecutor General’s Office, namely from the above-mentioned example, the model of behavior of prosecutors at all levels will be formed.

Lack of proper example, significant changes in relation to the prosecutor’s office within the system itself, and at the same time injustice towards subordinates will inevitably lead to preservation of the existing order or even to the return of “old times”.

Unfortunately, some arguments of already “certified” prosecutors and their colleagues who had passed certification, as well as reasons for decision-making by prosecutors indicate about absence of such change.

Moreover, surprisingly popular among some prosecutors is the opinion that certification is “organized by Soros, the United States, the hand of the West to bring them down”, and other conspiracy theories. This indicates about lack of critical thinking within the system itself, as well as level of some of its representatives.

Another reason why the reform is unlikely to be welcomed by both society and some prosecutors themselves is inherent opportunity to circumvent it, which Iryna Venediktova is diligently using.

Thanks to manipulation with the law, namely paragraph 8 and subparagraph 6 of paragraph 22 of the Final and Transitional Provisions of Law № 113-IX, the Prosecutor General “saved” some prosecutors by transferring them to the Prosecutor General’s Office to circumvent the reform while their colleagues passed stages of testing and interviews.

Equally unfair for prosecutors undergoing the reform process is appointment of advisers to top management of the prosecutor’s office of those people who failed certification or the same Piskun, who during his work in the prosecutor’s office “earned” villa on the Cote d’Azur in France.

This model of management behavior does not signal to prosecutors about the need for changes, not to mention new vision of work of the prosecutor’s office.

Whatsoever, current prosecutors’ system has passed through certain sieve and lost about 25% of its staff.

In case of regional prosecutors, tests turned out to be more effective than the public, as it was the voice of public that often legitimized particular prosecutor.

“Turbo speed” requires proper organization and training. In case of the reform of the prosecutor’s office, this did not happen, which led to results we have now.

However, for us it is invaluable experience, based on which we can work on mistakes and not repeat them in the implementation of other reforms that are real and effective.

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