Fighting Corruption in Time of War: Current Issues on Preventing and Combating Corruption in Ukraine

Fighting corruption has always been one of the priorities of state development. This is not surprising, because even under the legal regime of martial law, when Ukraine is fighting the enemy and needs maximum unity and trust in the government, corruption among civil servants, military personnel and other officials is not subsiding, and sometimes it is even gaining momentum.

However, such actions lead to violations of the rule of law, discrediting the state as a whole and exacerbating socio-economic problems.

According to Transparency International Ukraine, Ukraine received 36 points out of 100 in the Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) in 2023 and ranked 104th out of 180 countries. At the same time, in 2022, Ukraine was ranked as high as 116th out of 180 countries, receiving 33 points out of 100.

This is due to the changes that were made to Ukrainian legislation in 2022-2024.

Thus, on 4 April, the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine adopted Resolution No. 220 On Approval of the State Anti-Corruption Programme for 2023-2025.

It identified a number of problems that currently exist in Ukraine.

The main ones are as follows:

The number of NABU employees has been increased, as the workload has increased significantly since the beginning of their work. Thus, the maximum number of employees in the central and territorial departments of the National Anti-Corruption Bureau is limited to 1,000, including no more than 750 senior staff. The main purpose of these changes is to strengthen the institutional capacity of the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine.

The changes also apply to the Specialised Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office.

The Specialised Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office has become more independent, as the law adopted by the Verkhovna Rada in December 2023 removes the SAPO from the structure of the Prosecutor- General’s Office and organises it into a separate prosecutorial body.

This means that the SAPO obtains independence from the Prosecutor-General’s Office, which means the creation of new opportunities for it to fight corruption and prospects for overcoming this manifestation in Ukrainian society. 

The procurement of defence goods, works and services is carried out in conditions of excessive classification

So as to solve this problem, amendments were made to paragraph 8 of Article 8 of the Law of Ukraine On State Secrets in order to regulate the protection of classified information, which, in particular, defines the scope of information published in the electronic procurement system, which must include information on:

1) The name, total quantity, cost of weapons, military equipment, ammunition, spare parts and materials to them purchased for the needs of military formations (law- enforcement agencies);

2) The amount and terms of supply of the main types of fuel (lubricants), material and food to military formations or law- enforcement agencies, special formations of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Ukraine to ensure their combat capability;

3) On the fact and subject matter of procurement of defence goods, works and services for the supply of the Armed Forces of Ukraine and other military formations and law-enforcement agencies (except in cases where certain information on the procurement of such defence goods, works and services procured in accordance with the Law of Ukraine On Defence Procurement is a state secret. In this case, separate information is placed in an annex to tender documentation).

At the same time, there are plans to develop additional amendments to legislation on state secrets in order to ensure transparency and competitiveness of the majority of defence procurement, the disclosure of which will not harm national security and defence. In addition, the issue of putting into commercial operation an electronic register of participants in the selection and execution of state contracts (agreements), which is supposed to serve as a filter against fictitious companies and ensure competition, is on the agenda.

Embezzlement of defence budget funds

Embezzlement in the army at this time is an extremely complex crime. NABU detectives are currently investigating more than 60 proceedings related to abuses in the defence sector.

For example, on 27 January, 2024 a former official and current head of a department of the Ministry of Defence of Ukraine, managers of the Lviv Arsenal company and a representative of a foreign company were served with notices of suspicion on attempting to embezzle UAH 1.5 billion worth of public funds intended for the purchase of shells for the Ukrainian army.

According to the Security Service of Ukraine, the offenders tried to steal almost UAH 1.5 billion of budget funds (which is almost $40 million) to purchase 100,000 mortar shells for the Ukrainian army.

And all of this is taking place in wartime.

Therefore, in our opinion, it is necessary to amend the Criminal Code of Ukraine and increase criminal liability for the embezzlement of defence funds during martial law.

Corruption risks during the registration of property for military service, during conscription (acceptance) for military service, etc

On 28 March 2024, under the procedural supervision of the Specialised Defence Prosecutor’s Office of the Central Region, a serviceman of one of the departments of the Kyiv Territorial Centre for Recruitment and Social Support was served a notice of suspicion on peddling influence (Part 2 of Article 369-2 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine).

According to the investigation, the suspect promised to influence the head of one of the district Territorial Centre for Recruitment and Social Support in Kyiv for the purpose of adopting a decision on registering vehicles for military use without including them in the list for transfer to military formations. For this, he received an undue advantage in the amount of USD 900.

In addition, on 19 July 2023, an employee of the military registration and enlistment office and an official of the city council were served a notice of suspicion in Volyn Region on the fact of receiving an undue advantage by an official (Part 3 of Article 368 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine).

These individuals received almost UAH 37,000 from a person liable for military service for not taking actions related to his mobilisation to the Armed Forces of Ukraine.

In many countries, this problem has been solved very simply: the recruit pays an official “payoff” from the army. And no one touches him any more. For example, according to Turkish law, this service costs 18,000 liras, which is USD 8,200. In Uzbekistan, it is about USD 500. In Georgia, a conscript must pay 2,000 GEL (USD 1,100) to the country’s budget. Last year, military commissariats announced statistics on “evaders” (draft dodgers). For example, in Ternopil Region alone, 21,000 people were hiding from the draft.

Recently, on 22 May 2024, the Economic Development Committee proposed a model of economic reservation, which provides for a monthly payment of UAH 20,000 for each strategically important employee. Another option for businesses is “economic mobilization”. Entrepreneurs will work for the needs of the Armed Forces of Ukraine in areas where they have more competence than the military itself.

It is expected that this booking model will allow the employer to independently identify employees who are strategically important to the business, pay UAH 20,000 per month in military duty for each of them, and continue to work and pay taxes necessary to support the country’s defence and security forces.

The fight against corruption is a painful and constant issue, whether in peacetime or in wartime.

But in this period of time, when some give the last of their money to drones, and others, by virtue of their position, build a villa in Spain with the same money, the issue arises of the overall effectiveness and efficiency of anti-corruption bodies and the law-enforcement system in general.

Corruption existed in our country even before the war, but after the first unification of the Ukrainian nation against the enemy and the general focus on fighting the external foe, certain officials realised that the war was their time and a way to enrich themselves.

As a result, the effectiveness of the fight against corruption is fiction, as the fight and methods used before the war were not reflected after it began, and as a result, corruption has only progressed in a new direction, the military direction.

  • Liudmyla Kusa

    Partner, Gracers Law Firm




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Office 102, Section 1,

Kyiv, 03150, Ukraine

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