Presidential Questionnaire: Volodymyr Zelensky’s answers

In March 2019 Volodymyr Zelensky, then-presidential candidate, provided NAKO with the answers to our Questionnaire on fighting defence corruption.

Now that Mr. Zelensky Mr. Zelensky has been inaugurated as the President of Ukraine, we have published his commitments in the English language. The original answers in Ukrainian  can be found here.

1. To what extent do you consider corruption in the defence sector of Ukraine to be an issue, assuming you are elected President of Ukraine, what steps would you take to address it? And following which timetable/sequence?

The anti-corruption issue, particularly within the defence and security sector, continues to be a key factor  for the Ukraine-NATO relationship. An effective system aimed at preventing corruption is one of the preconditions for our country’s Euro-Atlantic integration.

That is why winning the fight against corruption is a crucial, first-priority task for the new President of Ukraine.

Corruption is a systemic problem. Therefore, its resolution requires a strong political will, as well as comprehensive and coordinated measures. In this regard, I guarantee the existence of political will, and, I will provide all the possible assistance needed to implement anti-corruption measures.

The program (action plan) for the fight against corruption within the defence and security sector is now being prepared by our team.

2. A level of secrecy around national security matters is vital for every state, but excessive secrecy can enable corruption and abuse of power. Would you support increasing access to defence information, and if so, how would you go about this?

The  unjustified level of high level of classifying information facilitates corruption within the defence and security sectors. Ukraine’s legislation governing state secrecy remains founded on the Soviet one.  It does not meet current requirements, particularly in light of digitalization, the globalization of information systems and information warfare.

Therefore, there is a need for a state secrecy law. A new draft law on state secrecy will be among the first the President will introduce to the Parliament. The draft law must  provide for the:

3. A healthy procurement system that provides value for money and ensures troops are well equipped is in the interests of all Ukrainians. How would you suggest reducing corruption in the area of defence procurement?

Ukraine needs to review all current defence procurement practices and policies.

Therefore, a new strategy for defence procurement is needed. It should identify what to procure (the choice between the samples), where to procure (locally produced products or imported ones), how to ensure the best quality at the best cost, how to ensure development of Ukraine’s production, how to secure strategic independence from foreign producers of military armaments and equipment as well as foreign governments.

There is also the need to adopt a new law “On State Defence Order” (SDO). It should harmonize the provisions on how to plan and formulate the state defence according to Ukraine’s Law on National Security. The new law on State Defence Order should include the following:

4. Ukroboronprom is a major part of the Ukrainian defence sector. What steps would you take to ensure that it is effectively governed?

The Ukroboronprom management issue should be considered as one component of the systemic reform of the Military-Industrial Complex.

Given this, the next steps should be prioritised:

  1.  the transfer of authority to one of the existing ministries (for example, to the Ministry of Defence) to formulate and implement the state military-industrial policy;
  2.  the  review Ukraine’s Military-Industrial Complex (MIC) according to the Law on National Security (to assess the condition and readiness of MIC enterprises to meet the needs of Ukraine’s security and defence sectors as well as the needs of external markets; the audit of state-owned enterprises).
  3.  to review the development strategy for Ukraine’s Military-Industrial Complex in accordance to the Law of Ukraine on National Security and based on the assessment results of the MIC’s.
  4.  to submit, as urgent for consideration to the parliament, a draft law “On Military Technical Cooperation” (MTC) particularly pertaining to the identification of principles of state policy, the  legal framework of Military Technical Cooperation, its forms, means and manners of state control within the MTC and also the authority/powers of its actors and subjects.
  5. to submit, as urgent for consideration to the parliament, a draft law “On the Transformation of the MIC Unitary, State-commercial Enterprises into Joint-stock Companies and their Privatization” (on the development of preconditions necessary for the preservation and increase of the competitiveness of MIC enterprises – both the internal and external markets; on the particularities related to the corporatization and privatization of MIC state defence enterprises;  on the implementation of principles of corporate governance for state enterprises, based on OECD standards; on how to attract strategic investors).
  6. to conduct the independent review and audit of Ukroboronprom’s (UoP) activity, its member companies, joint-stock companies, as well as state-owned corporate rights that are handed over to the UoP’s authority.

5. Trade, illegal or legal, with non-government controlled territories (Donbass and Crimea) opens opportunities for corruption, including in the military. How would you deal with the problem?

One of the main causes of this is the lack of political will to resolve the problem. The new President of Ukraine has this will.

First, systems of bodies and institutions responsible for controlling crime at the contact line should be headed by honest professionals willing to bring changes. The Security Service of Ukraine, all prosecutor agencies and the Military Law-Enforcement Service must fight the crime and corruption within the Armed Forces of Ukraine instead of sheltering them.

Second, an analysis of the causes and circumstances leading to such crimes must be carried out. An action plan necessary to eliminate such systemic issues causes should be developed.

6. After the collapse of the USSR, Ukraine’s MoD inherited approximately 600 000 hectares of land. Since then, it has lost effective control of over 100 000 hectares. Much of this loss is directly related to corruption and mismanagement. Do you consider this problematic and, if so, what are the first steps you will take to resolve the problem?

First and foremost, the audit and inventorisation of the MoD’s lands, and,  the registration of property rights over both the land and all real estate are needed.

What is more, the e-register of all the lands and real estate managed by the Ministry of Defence is important.

7. There is a 47-thousand person queue for service and permanent housing. How would you address it?

The current defence housing system is ineffective and corrupt.

Thus,  a system-wide audit must be conducted,  the possibilities for the abuse at the signing and fulfilment of building investment contracts eliminated, and land returned to the MoD in cases where the investors fail to fulfil their obligations.

The system itself needs to be reconsidered and new approaches identified.

Such new approaches could include (among others) the removal of the right to privatise service housing (which leads to situations where officials receive several apartments and then sell them) and replace that system with the introduction of a social protection system for servicemen/women and members of their families (through the creation of new mechanisms developed to provide personalized, cumulative financial assistance upon exiting the service).