The appointment of the chief anti-corruption prosecutor is being delayed, Artem Sytnyk, head of the National Anti-Corruption Bureau, told the Kyiv Post on Sept. 12 at the Yalta European Strategy forum in Kyiv.
The chief anti-corruption prosecutor is expected to work in tandem with the National Anti-Corruption Bureau to prosecute top-level graft. The bureau was initially scheduled to start working in October but without the anti-corruption prosecutor it will not be able to operate.
Critics say that the Prosecutor General’s Office and parliament are sabotaging the bureau’s work and the launch of the anti-corruption prosecutor’s office.
The commission for selecting the chief anti-corruption prosecutor will comprise 11 people, including four chosen by the prosecutor general and seven by the Verkhovna Rada.
“The prosecutorial law came into force on July 15,” Sytnyk said. “Two months have passed since, and a commission could have already been created and could have begun selecting the anti-corruption prosecutor. But the commission has not yet been created.”
Sytnyk said the very existence of Ukraine depended on the National Anti-Corruption Bureau’s work.
“Unless the Anti-Corruption Bureau starts working, and unless we start investigations and do something about corruption, Ukraine will cease to exist in a year or a year and a half because corruption is destroying the country,” he said. “If we fail to launch the bureau and start investigations, we’ll derail the whole reform process.”
The Prosecutor General’s Office has already appointed its commission members, while the Verkhovna Rada has failed to do that so far.
Sytnyk said he had met with heads of parliamentary factions to discuss the issue. Some lawmakers don’t even understand that they are supposed to nominate members of the commission, while others say they will nominate them but eventually fail to do that, he added.
Sytnyk said that the delay could be due to the authorities’ inability to appoint a loyal anti-corruption prosecutor due to procedural issues and their reluctance to choose an independent one.
He went on to say that, if the delay continued, he would support amending the law and appointing someone, for instance reformist Deputy Prosecutor General Davit Sakvarelidze, as the acting chief anti-corruption prosecutor before the commission is selected and chooses the anti-corruption prosecutor.
Sytnyk also commented on the backlash in civil society against the decision by the Prosecutor General’s Office to appoint First Deputy Prosecutor General Yury Sevruk and Yury Hryshchenko, head of the office’s main investigative department, to the commission for choosing the chief anti-corruption prosecutor.
Sevruk has been accused of sabotaging reform at the Prosecutor General’s Office by attacking Sakvarelidze’s testing system to appoint new prosecutors.
Hryshchenko was the boss of Volodymyr Shapakin, former first deputy head of the main investigative department, who was arrested in a sting operation organized by Sakvarelidze and Deputy Prosecutor General Vitaly Kasko in July and charged with bribery. Critics argue that appointing someone who failed to see his immediate subordinate’s alleged corruption sends a wrong signal.
“There should be a reaction to that criticism to prevent doubts in (the commission’s) legitimacy,” Sytnyk said. “I don’t know anything about (Hryshchenko) – either good or bad – but this fact erodes trust in the commission itself.”
Sakvarelidze voiced a similar idea in an interview with the Kyiv Post last week.
“People who are 100 percent trusted by society must be there from both sides – both parliament and the prosecutor’s office,” he said. “If society doesn’t trust someone a priori, it will be hard to prove later that the commission made a right decision.”
Vitaly Shabunin, executive director of the Anti-Corruption Action Center, said in August that Prosecutor General Victor Shokin had chosen “people of the old system who are interested in preserving it.”
To offset Shokin’s candidates, the Anti-Corruption Action Center proposed 10 other candidates, including foreigners and Ukrainian investigative journalists.