Making a difference in the most corrupt country in Europe

25 May 2017

Levan Duchidze, Country Director. Unfortunately, Ukraine still ranks as the most corrupt country in Europe in Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index 2016.

While the country is becoming more financially stable, progress fighting corruption and improving security has proven slow.

Tackling corruption is the primary focus of IDLO’s work in Ukraine; we have been instrumental in the creation of new Public Service Centers, in de-regulation, electronic public procurement, providing technical assistance to the newly-created Anti-Corruption institutions (Special Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office and National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine), and offering support to the Ministry of the Interior.

At the end of 2016, the ‘Together against Corruption’ initiative launched; this program, supported by the Prime Minister, incorporates more than eighty anti-corruption measures originating from and to be implemented by various ministries. In close cooperation with several ministries, IDLO developed fourteen of the eighty-three initiatives, and we are now heavily involved in their implementation, in particular with the Ministries of Culture and Regional Development and Infrastructure; within the construction sector, where corruption is especially rife, we are working to develop new construction laws, permits and licences.

We also manage sub-grants to three organizations – IREX, which builds awareness and trust between the police and local communities, AntAC, a watchdog monitoring the efficiency of the two new anti-corruption institutions, and Our Money, our smallest and youngest partner which observes corruption cases in court.

In terms of the greatest difference we have made, this is definitely through the Public Service Centers; tangible results can be seen in at least two regions, Odessa and the war-affected Donetsk region in eastern Ukraine. Customer service training and seeing the public as clients are completely new concepts for public servants in Ukraine. Work is underway in a third region and we will be further expanding our geographical coverage in 2017.

IDLO was also one of the first organizations to pay attention to electronic public procurement in Ukraine; we consulted with members of parliament and non-governmental organizations and were able to influence the legislative process, which is now more transparent and efficient. We lobbied for the majority of public procurement to be undertaken via the electronic public procurement platform, trained all public servants responsible for procurement and, uniquely, all relevant stakeholders in the process from civil servants and business representatives to civil society and the media; businesses need to know how to tender and the media and civil society must be equipped to monitor the processes.

IDLO is the only organization applying this holistic approach to the entire procurement chain. Seeing evidence-based results in the regions where we have applied this training, we have subsequently received requests from other regions for similar help, which is a great reflection of their interest in IDLO and appreciation of what we do. From what they tell us, IDLO is generally seen by its partners as flexible, fast-moving and results-oriented.

In terms of legislation, our biggest achievement relates to around three dozen legislative bills that we helped draft and promote in Parliament; three were adopted in 2016 around wineries, foreign investment and freedom of speech, and one on water usage in early 2017.

I, personally, joined IDLO in Ukraine in August 2015 and a year later became Country Director; I’m incredibly proud of the progress we have made, especially with the Public Service Centers and the laws we have helped change, which genuinely affect real people and how business is done here. In 2017, we are also going to be working to promote greater transparency in terms of how courts deal with anti-corruption cases.

I'm incredibly proud of the progress we have made, especially with the Public Service Centers and the laws we have helped change, which genuinely affect real people and how business is done here.

Challenges, however, remain in Ukraine due to weak political will at the national level to implement painful but necessary reforms; everything else is ultimately linked to this. Yet the fact that, just two and a half years ago, Ukrainian people spent days and nights demonstrating in the streets, despite temperatures falling below -20C, defending their own democratic rights and Ukraine’s European future gives me hope that Ukraine will not only resolve the challenges it is facing right now but will also thrive and prosper.