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9 March, 2021
Oversight of defence procurement: parliamentarians of Ukraine and Norway exchanged experiences
On March 9, 2021, the Week of Parliamentary Oversight of the Security and Defence Sector began, which is taking place as part of a project to support and strengthen the capacity of Verkhovna Rada committees. During the first webinar, MPs and their assistants shared their experience of parliamentary oversight with their Norwegian partners in overseeing defence procurement.

Mikael Thatchner, First Deputy of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence, spoke about oversight mechanisms, basic means of democratic control, and the role and place of NGOs in building a more transparent and accountable security and defence sector. “In order for Parliament’s oversight of the security and defence sector to be effective, the country needs free media, unrestricted by censorship, and opposition that can criticize the leadership,” Thatchner said. He also noted that criticism of the government itself against the government is important for effective oversight of the security and defence sector. During the webinar, transforming the defence procurement system was actively discussed, which is currently one of the biggest challenges for Ukraine's national security in 2021.

Three months have passed since the entry into force of the revolutionary Law on Defence Procurement, but as yet it is not working, as the responsible ministries have not developed the necessary legislative acts. Deputy Chairman of the Verkhovna Rada Committee on National Security, Defence, and Intelligence Mariana Bezugla noted, “We delegate authority to the government. If it does not work properly, we replace its particular members or even the entire government. However, the problem is more institutional. In many ways, the law on defence procurement is not ahead of its time, but the system is unable to catch up. It’s a question of professionals’ training, reluctance, and impossibility to change the rules of the game so drastically.” Her colleague on the Committee, Roman Kostenko, confirmed the problem and increased parliamentary control over implementation of the Law. Speaking about the general state of parliamentary oversight, Kostenko noted, “In principle, the Parliament does not have sufficient levers of control over the Armed Forces, the Ministry of Defence, and, most of all, over the security services. But if we are building a democratic society, it is important.” Speaking about the ability of Ukrainian institutions to actively respond to today’s issues and challenges, Giovanni Kessler, Member of the NAKO Board and Director General of the European Anti-Fraud Office (2011-2017): “Corruption in the security and defence sector can have fatal consequences for Ukraine’s national security, and the lack of capable institutions could jeopardize the Euro-Atlantic future to which Ukraine is heading.” This thesis was confirmed by Erik Svedahl, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Norway to Ukraine. He stressed, “Democratic oversight ensures the efficient use of state resources. It ensures that defence institutions act in the best interests of the country and the nation.” As part of this project, NAKO produced a series of videos dedicated to the current challenges of parliamentary oversight and the security and defence sector. During the March 9 webinar, we presented a video story on defence procurement and the importance of parliamentary oversight of this process.

The Week of Parliamentary Security and Defence Oversight is part of a project to strengthen the capacity of VRU committees, with the financial support of the British Embassy in Ukraine and organizational support of the Lithuanian Embassy in Ukraine, the International Republican Institute (IRI), the Norwegian Parliament, and the Norwegian Ministry of Defence, and the Centre for Integrity in the Defence Sector.