№1. Why analyze declarations

The declarations.com.ua database and the state register

Corruption is a phenomenon that exists in all countries and has many manifestations: bribery, theft of state property, misuse of funds, abuse of office, and so on. It is based on the official’s use of their powers in private interests. If there’s is a position, there may be corruption. In order to reduce the urge for illicit enrichment and to detect such cases, there is a need in society to control the income, property, and lifestyle of officials. That’s how the declarations came about.

With the help of declarations you can:

  • monitor expenses and record the acquisition of expensive property by the official,
  • analyze business ties and identify companies to which his undeclared assets may be registered,
  • analyze relatives and identify conflicts of interest or undeclared property on them,
  • track sources of income and detect bribery or money laundering,
  • compare savings and expenses with official income and expose cases of illicit enrichment, etc.

For example, the Italian firm Avitalia S.R.L mentioned in the declaration of the Interior Minister pushed journalists to search in foreign registers. They found that in 2017, the minister became the owner of a 26-room villa on the Mediterranean coast in Italy through the company. The minister himself did not declare the villa, but after the publication, he acknowledged its purchase and said that it was a tourism project run by his wife.

Another example. Thanks to the electronic declaration, journalists noticed that in 2017, the then opposition MP received large sums of money three times in a row (a total of 570,000 hryvnias) from a lottery company. The Ukrainian national lottery, which, according to the declaration, paid these funds, is linked to the circle of the then head of state. The opposition politician claimed those were real winnings, although the probability of winning three times in a row is extremely low. At the same time, the MP was the chairman of a workgroup which had to develop a bill outlining the rules of work for the gambling market but didn’t start working. So the winnings could hypothetically be a bribe for either actions or inaction. On the other hand, these funds could have been paid not by the lottery company (it never confirmed the payments), so this case can be hypothetically considered as an attempt to legalize illegal income. Public outcry led to the opening of criminal proceedings by the National Anti-Corruption Bureau. This is one example of how the analysis of declarations can lead to criminal cases. The following are examples of when such cases are referred to court.

In general, the declaration is an excellent source of information about an official. Therefore, before an interview, be sure to read it. Sometimes it may lead you to interesting questions from “Why didn’t you declare this Rolex that you have on your wrist?” to “Why are you lobbying the interests of this business group? Isn’t it by chance that its owner gave you a car to use for free? ”

Declarations are also a database of relatives and a map of officials’ connections. Often, their family members are themselves civil servants or work in related fields. For example, a judge’s husband may be a prosecutor or a lawyer, and if they are in court in the same proceedings, it constitutes a conflict of interest. Or an MP may be connected to an oligarch through joint business, property, income, or even debts, which again may give you an idea to check whether the MP is lobbying his interests.

The declarations will be useful not only to journalists but also to other citizens. Before voting in the election, you should look at the declarations of candidates. If someone’s wealth raises questions about the legality of its acquisition, perhaps it is not worth voting for that person?

Therefore, in this course, we will tell you in more detail what declarations are and how to work with them.

Now, a few words about the project declarations.com.ua. This is the largest online database of declarations of politicians and officials in the country, developed by the NGO White Collar Hundred (Bihus.info). The database is created using publicly available sources of information.

The idea came after the Ministry of Justice published an array of 3,500 declarations of officials undergoing lustration in December 2014. It was an archive of scanned paper declarations filled out by officials by hand, which did not allow us to analyze them comprehensively.

Thanks to the help of 3,000 volunteers, scans of documents were manually transformed into a real electronic database. Already in the first year of operation, the database was filled with thousands of digitized declarations.

Subsequently, the declarations.com.ua project became one of the drivers of electronic declaration, its developments were used in the creation of the state register of declarations. Dmytro Chaplynskyi, the co-founder of the project, advised the World Bank on the development of a state register of declarations.

The State Register of Electronic Declarations was launched in 2016. The National Agency on Corruption Prevention (NACP), which was established in 2016, is responsible for maintaining and verifying declarations. The State Register contains electronic declarations of Ukrainian politicians, civil servants, judges, law enforcement officers, and other officials for 2015 and subsequent years.

The public project declarations.com.ua includes both data from the state register and a significant array of digitized paper declarations for previous years, as well as special convenient tools for working with them. Currently, this online database of declarations is ahead of the official state register in terms of the number of visitors.

The developers of declarations.com.ua have created a number of convenient search and analytical tools that greatly facilitate the process of working with documents. The functionality of the platform is constantly expanding and improving.

“Our goal is not just to digitize all declarations, but to make the site as convenient as possible. To be able to do automatic analytics, ratings, see the dynamics of growth of the officials’ wealth. We hope that our website will also be useful for NACP employees who check declarations,” said Denys Bihus, one of the project’s co-founders.

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