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29 December, 2021
Not stealing is not enough. How can Ukraine minimize corruption risks in the defence?
What would be the best way to assess the effectiveness of anti-corruption efforts in the defence sector? To answer this question, Transparency International prepares a periodical analysis, the Government Defence Integrity Index (GDI).

The GDI measures the quality of a country’s institutional controls in the defence and security sector. Skipping ahead, Ukraine was marked as a high-risk country. The Index assesses a country’s corruption risks in five different areas, including political, procurement, personnel, financial, and military operations.

New Zealand demonstrated the lowest corruption risks, ranking as a band A country with 85 points out of 100. Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands, Latvia, Norway, Switzerland, Taiwan, and the UK were all recognized as countries with low corruption levels and strong institutions. In contrast to this, Ukraine appeared in the group of high-risk countries in 2015. Having received 41 points out of 100, last year we were in the D band. Today, we continue sharing the company of Uganda, Russia, Hungary, Kosovo, Kenya, and Chile.

“That was our 2020 score. However, many important steps were taken in 2021. I am convinced that our score will improve,” says Ihor Chukhrai, Chair of the Department for the Prevention and Identification of Corruption at the Ukrainian Ministry of Defence.

Anti-corruption policy got the highest score of A in the political risks section, but policy implementation received only 75 points. Lobbying has the highest political risk in Ukraine, according to Transparency International, for example, when attempts are made to pass a law or a decision at the level of the Ukrainian Parliament in the interest of a particular oligarch. Export control is also a weak point in Ukraine, as the quality of control is very poor. Personnel policy at intelligence institutions is also a failure.

Procurement legislation and formal procedures governing procurement cycles were recognized as relatively effective. However, they received a low score due to corruption risks and lack of transparency.

Military doctrine, operational training, and advance planning got zero points. Classified defence procurements, poor parliamentary control over secret state-funded programs, and non-transparent tenders all entail corruption and prevent Ukraine’s progress towards NATO.

“The Ukrainian Parliament is about to adopt a law on classified information. Theoretically, it can have a significant impact on future GDI scores as it can increase transparency in the defence sector. Regarding why we are still not a part of NATO - there is a set of laws to be adopted, and this one is among them,” says Olena Tregub, NAKO Executive Director.

A number of other world leaders also emphasize that if we are aiming towards NATO, we should eliminate corruption in the defence sector. However, Ukrainian leadership, including the head of state, do not see corruption as a key factor isolating Ukraine from the Euro-Atlantic community. NGOs monitoring corruption risks in the defence sector  recommend that the Ministry of Defence delimit powers of the supreme military leadership in accordance with NATO standards and improve its personnel policy.

The Ministry should effectively apply the procedures introduced by the new Defence Procurement Law. It should set up a central procurement agency, as otherwise it would not be possible to have a professional system of defence procurement in place. An electronic register of contractors should be launched and fully operational, NAKO emphasized.

It should be noted that even unclassified procurements are also prone to corruption, for example, a recent scandal concerning the supply of low-quality food products to the military that was associated with Ihor Khalimon, ex-Deputy Minister of Defence. We can only imagine what happens in closed procurements. Only transparency, public control over so-called state defence orders, and effective personnel reforms can minimize corruption risks and bring Ukraine closer to NATO. 

Iryna Sampan