Corruption Perception Index 2019: Thinking about Ukraine

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Kiwiev || CC 1.0

According to new Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) 2019 published by Transparency International, Ukraine scored 30 points out of 100. This means that Ukraine has gone back to the level from 2017 and now ranks 126th out of 180 countries, alongside Kyrgyzstan, Azerbaijan, and Djibouti.

These results are more or less consistent with the domestic perception that during the last two years the “internal anti-corruption drive” has significantly lost its momentum.

It took a lot of time and effort to create the system of special anti-corruption agencies such as National Anticorruption Bureau of Ukraine (NABU), the National Agency on Corruption Prevention (NACP), Specialized Anticorruption Prosecutor’s Office (SAPO), and High Anticorruption Court. However, their failure to act efficiently prompted the necessity to “re-launch” this system.

The new Ukrainian parliament rapidly adopted new laws on the NACP and the State Investigation Bureau. Even in the best-case scenario, these re-launched anti-corruption bodies will still need two-to-three years for fine-tuning to become up and running at full capacity, and for their political independence to be effectively preserved.

About Corruption Perception Index

The CPI index is a very popular measure for comparing corruption levels in different countries and has been widely cited by the experts, politicians, and journalists.

It is frequently referred to in discussions that are very often general in their nature and focus on traditional issues of what was done or not in the past and what steps are to be taken at the moment with an emphasis on how to punish for corruption. CPI analyzes perceptions of corruption over two years prior to the release of the report.

How to Fight Corruption Effectively

This approach may be sound, but it lacks a clear definition of the current institutional issues to be dealt with in order to reduce corruption and tprevent the emergence of new corruption opportunities.

Therefore, in order to fight corruption successfully serious attention needs to be paid to the following corruption-related issues, which are virtually not even mentioned in the public debate in Ukraine today. And they all concern new corruptions risks that might worsen Ukraine’s CPI standing:

1. The new Ukrainian Parliament has been extremely fast in adopting various legislative acts. This practice even earned the special term “turbo regime”. Such a law-making rush did not allow for the proper quality of a number of pieces of legislation.

In 2019 and early 2020, the Verkhovna Rada adopted several laws aiming to reduce corruption by, ia., setting new rules for the financing of political parties, clarifying the legal regime of the State Investigation Bureau, providing new regulations aimed to prevent and counteract money laundering, and to improve property assessment for the purposes of taxation.

The success or failure of these measures will depend upon the institutional law enforcement capacity in general, and judicial reform in particular.

2. Decentralization in Ukraine has been rightfully characterized as one the most comprehensive and difficult reforms. Recently, political discussions on decentralization have been focused on formation of the so-called  “amalgamated communities” (a basic element of new administrative system of Ukraine) and local elections.

At the same time, the discussion on establishing the system of checks and balances at a local level is virtually non-existent.

Needless to say, in democratic societies such a system is a vitally important precondition for preventing political corruption. Thus, the danger of “local feudalization” is a real one and should be taken seriously, as it will inevitably result in corrupt misuse of power.

Measuring Corruption

There is also the question of adequately measuring corruption and the effectiveness of anti-corruption policy. For this, three groups of indicators should be used:1

a) Economic indicators – measuring the decrease (increase) of economic losses related to corruption schemes and conditions potentially favoring corruption;

b) Indicators of public perception of effectiveness of fighting corruption – estimates of corruption trends as perceived by different social and professional groups;

c) Indicators of law-enforcement system performance – number of persons held administratively and criminally liable for corruption, amount of compensated damages, etc.

Such a comprehensive approach would be more informative and adequate when it comes to measuring anti-corruption efforts at national and local levels.

Conclusions

There remain two rather obvious general conclusions. First, fighting corruption remains a long-term priority for Ukraine and will require extraordinary political efforts.

Second, significant improvement in the CPI ranking depends heavily on Ukraine’s ability to combat existing corruption effectively and minimize new corruption risks.

Igor Burakovsky
The Institute for Economic Research and Policy Consulting - Kiev