№4 Working with search tools and analytical modules of the Declarations website

4.1. Detailed overview of search tools

Simple search

Do you want to find public declarations of an official for all available years? All you have to do on the declarations.com.ua website is enter their last name, first name, and patronymic in the search bar, click on the search button, and get the result. Mind that this database may contain more declarations of your official than the state register as it doesn’t just have the electronic declarations, but also a considerable array of the digitized paper declarations which preceded them.

The results obtained by searching by the full name can be further sorted alphabetically, by the reporting year, or by the date of submission of the declaration.

For electronic declarations, navigation by sections is also provided. It can be useful if your person of interest has declared a lot of different property, and you are only interested in information from a specific section. To avoid lots of scrolling, expand the “Contents” tab on the right and select the required item.

Below each declaration you can find the person’s declarations for previous years and the declarations of probable relatives of the person of interest. With this feature, you can find conflicts of interest when relatives work in the same department or related authorities (such as courts and prosecutors’ offices). But use the list of probable relatives with caution, because there are a lot of full namesakes. Therefore, always open these declarations in a new tab and compare the information in the section about family members.

Full text search

Full-text search allows you to search for not just the declarations of specific officials, but also for specific things in the contents of the declarations.

To use this feature, check the box “deep search” in the search bar and enter your query. For example, Faberge eggs, gold bars, luxury cars, or company names.

With the help of this tool, Bihus.Info journalists prepare illustrated materials about officials who declare icons, churches or cryptocurrencies, or investigations about officials who allegedly bought premium cars for as cheap as UAH 149,000.

Advanced search

Some “especially rich” officials submit declarations with increasing regularity, each month they submit forms of changes in dividends received, interest on bank deposits or even high bonuses or salaries. Therefore, you may need to narrow your search. The advanced search feature will help.

To do this, click the “Advanced Search” button below the search bar, and you will see a list of filters you can use. For example, you can search for declarations only for a certain year or only of a certain type: candidates for office, annual, forms of change, before or after dismissal.

If your declarant has full namesakes at other government agencies, a job type filter will help. For example, the mayor of Lviv has a namesake in the Chernihiv Oblast police. To get only the mayor’s declarations, you need to check the box “Local self-government body”. And if you want to receive declarations only of his namesake the police officer, check “Public service”.

You will get a similar result if you filter by region. The system allows for different options. This can be both the region of registration of the declarant and the region of actual residence (because in practice they often differ, for example, an official can work in Kyiv, but be registered in the Zaporizhzhia Oblast). You can also filter the results by region of the declared real estate and thus find, say, all Kyiv judges who own real estate in the Crimea.

Search operators

Special search operators help to quickly find what you need in a large array of declarations:

Double quotes (“ ”) – fix the order of words in the search, as well as phrases. Thus, using the quotes you can look for exactly those words and in the order in which they were entered.

This operator will help you when you need an exact match. For example, you are looking for a declaration of an official by the name of Oleksandr Judge. But if you just enter Judge Oleksandr in the search bar, you will receive several thousand declarations from all Ukrainian judges called Oleksandr, and you will have to spend lots of time to figure out the one you need. Therefore, this request must be double-quoted to obtain only the declarations of a particular official. This operator will also help you with the “bounty hunt”. Let’s say you want to find officials who have declared gold bars. If you search for a gold bar without quotes, the system will give you all the results with the word bar, for example, silver. If you quote the phrase, the system will only look for exact matches.

Asterisk (*) – search with a mask that allows different endings.

It is convenient to use when you are looking for the declaration of an official with a complicated name and are not sure of the correctness of its spelling. Or if the name has several spellings (for example, Natalia and Nataliya). In such cases, at the end of the word put an asterisk in place of the letters you are unsure of, and the system will offer you all possible options.

Tilda (~) – search for similar words.

You can also use this operator to search for declarations of people with different name spellings. For example, searching  Nataliya~, you will also receive declarations of women named Natalia and Natali.

Minus (-) – allows you to exclude a specific word from the search.

For example, you want to find the declarations of all Poroshenkos except Petro’s. Then you need to make the following query Poroshenko -Petro.

Logical operators AND, OR and NOT – allow you to add or remove a word from the search or search for both options.

These operators will help you build complex search queries. For example, you want to find the declarations of MPs Bohdan and Yaroslav Dubnevych. Then your request will look as follows: Dubnevych Bohdan AND Yaroslav.

If, on the contrary, you need to exclude one of the brothers, then before his name use the operator NOT: Dubnevych Bohdan NOT Yaroslav (or use the exact search “Bogdan Dubnevych”).

In turn, the OR operator allows you to search for declarations with both words. For example, you do not remember which of the Klitschko boxer brothers became the mayor of Kyiv, but you want to find his declaration. To do this, you just need to search Klitschko Volodymyr OR Vitaliy.

4.2. Working with the procurement module

If the companies of an official or their relatives won public procurement contracts, then at the top of the declaration, you will see the total amount of funds in those contracts. This section can be expanded to see in more detail how many procurements and for how much money the companies have won in a given year, as well as how much money a company has made  over time.

Data on procurement tenders are uploaded daily to the declarations.com.ua database from the Zakupivli 2.0 system created by the Texty media. The system contains information on the winners of all public procurement tenders from 2008 to the present. If you click on the name of the company, you will go directly to this database and see the company’s transactions. From Zakupivli, in turn, you can get to the pages of relevant procurement tenders in the state Bulletin of Public Procurement or the ProZorro system and find data on competitors or analyze the procurement documents.

With this tool, you can come across prominent cases of corruption, which may be worth a separate investigation. For example, you are analyzing the information about the procurement tenders won by the KRT Corporation, and it turns out that it is a monopolist in the supply of parts for the repair of Ukrainian Railway tracks. An investigation by the journalists of Bihus.Info showed that the corporation’s parts were of poor quality, and the Ukrainian Railway rigged the competition by deliberately reducing the requirements to their benefit, and rejected competitors’ offers due to formalities.

However, the procurement module on declarations.com.ua should be used with caution. Firstly, you should always pay attention to the share of the winning company that is controlled by an official. For example, the record holders in the amount of winnings in public procurement are various petty officials who have declared having several shares of PAT Ukrtelecom. About 19 billion such shares were issued in total, so their share is extremely meager and they, of course, do not control the company.

Secondly, it is also necessary to double-check the registers of legal entities to see whether the official or a member of their family was among the founders of the company when the procurement took place. Also, whether the official was a public servant at the time, and whether they could influence the decision of the customer.

4.3. Subscription and update module. Mail and RSS

If you are constantly monitoring the activities of an official, you may need to know about their recent declarations. To avoid visiting the site every day to manually check whether they have submitted a new document, you can simply subscribe to this request and receive notifications of updates.

To do this, do a search and select one of the ways to monitor this request, either by email or RSS. In the first case, notifications of new declarations will be sent to the email address you specify. In the latter case, you will need to copy the received link and paste it into the “add subscription” field in your preferred RSS-aggregator. Among the free RSS desktop apps are, for example, Feedly or Newsflow, among browser extensions: Inoreader, Digg or an integrated service to customize personalized news in the Opera browser.

You can pause or delete subscriptions in the My Requests menu. It can also be used to conveniently add many different queries at once. To do this, click on the appropriate button and enter them in the field that appears. Every new query must be written on a new line.

You can monitor not only the declarations of certain officials but also specific items inside the documents such as gifts, gold bars, diamonds, or luxury cars. By combining search queries, you can configure the system to receive notifications, for example, when an MP purchases and declares another Maserati (subscription to search query Maserati FULL NAME search without quotes).

4.4. Declaration comparison tool

As mentioned in the previous section, it is necessary to analyze the official’s declarations comprehensively, that is, for all available years. To avoid sitting with a calculator trying to manually calculate how much the income, savings, and the area of real estate have changed throughout the years, use the tool for automatic comparison of declarations.

At the top of each declaration, you can see the “Add to the comparison list” button. Once you have selected all the necessary documents, you need to go to the top of the page and find the button with an icon of graphs above the search bar. Click on it and then click “compare”.

After that, you will see several charts for certain sections of the declarations. The first will show how the income and assets of the declarant and their family members have changed throughout the years and how they relate to their expenses and financial obligations.

The second chart shows the ratio of income of the declarant and individual members of their family. The color will also highlight the total amount of gifts they received. If it is a significant part of their income, it can be seen as a risk factor, because officials may be laundering corrupt money this way.

The third chart shows a similar analysis of the financial assets of the official and their family. As these funds can be indicated in different currencies in the declaration, for the convenience of comparison, they are all translated into hryvnia at the exchange rate as of December 31 of the reporting year. However, this may cause difficulties: if you want to find out whether the declarant has accumulated additional savings or whether their cash assets have increased due to changes in exchange rates, you’ll have to open each document separately and manually compare these data. Also, the total share of cash in savings will be colored differently.

Graphs 4-5 will show the dynamics of changes in the total area of land and premises (apartments, houses, and other real estate) of the declarant and family members.

The last graph shows how the number of vehicles in the declarations has changed over the years. However, in practice, the official could have sold some cars and bought others with their total number remaining the same. Therefore, again, you will have to open all these documents and see if your person of interest has been driving the same cars, or maybe constantly buys something newer and more expensive instead.

By the way, you can compare not only the declarations of one person but also of several different ones.

4.5. Red flags tool

A new option was recently introduced to the declarations.com.ua database, the red flags. They signal what to look for when analyzing declarations. Designed as the red “Peculiarities” button, it can be found next to the document after making a search query.

The database analyzes each declaration against almost two dozen risk parameters and raises only those flags that correspond to each specific declaration. For example, millions in cash or expenses that far exceed revenues. After you expand the declaration, you will see a detailed description of each flag.

The “Assets 10+ times higher than income” flag. The database alerts you if the total savings of the declarant and their family are 10 or more times their income. During further analysis of the declaration, it is necessary to check whether the declarant or their relatives had higher official incomes in previous years.

The “Over UAH 5 million in cash” flag. Appears when the amount of cash of the declarant and their family exceeds UAH 5 million. The figures in foreign currency are converted into hryvnia at the exchange rate as of December 31 of the reporting year. This does not necessarily indicate a violation, but it signals you to look closely at the declarant’s income and expenses.

The “Luxury cars” flag. Appears when the declaration indicates a vehicle that belongs to the list of expensive brands and models selected by the developers, and the year of issue is later than 2011 (or simply not specified). It is worth checking whether the declarant and members of their official family could afford to buy it.

The “Foreign real estate” flag. The database will alert you to any declared real estate of an official or their family member if this real estate is not in Ukraine. Analyze when it was purchased and whether the declarant or their family had enough official income to buy it.

The “Real estate item over 300 square meters” flag. Indicates the presence of declared large real estate (residential house, apartment, room, garden house, or dacha) on any property right. It is worth checking whether the declarant and family members have enough income to buy or rent it.

The “Has a house/dacha, but no land” flag. Since it is impossible to use a house without the land, it is a potential violation of the rules of declaration (failure to include land in the declaration). It is necessary to identify the land plot under the house and find out the owner. The liability is provided for such violation is described in paragraph 2.4 of this manual.

The “Has a garage, but no car” flag. If the declarant or their relative owns a garage or a parking space but does not declare cars, the system will point this out. It may mean that the declarant has concealed the vehicle they are actually using.

The “The value of real estate/vehicles bought during the current year not specified” flags. When someone does not indicate the value of newly purchased housing or real estate, it may indicate a questionable origin of funds for an expensive asset, but the situation needs to be studied in more detail.

The “Has financial obligations not to banks, insurance or leasing companies, or pension funds” flag. It may indicate fictitious transactions, but the information in the declaration needs further inspection.

The “Notification of significant changes was submitted behind the legal deadline” flag. Certain categories of declarants must submit a declaration of expenses, income, or gifts in excess of a certain amount to the register within 10 days of those events (for more details, see paragraph 2.3). The database signals when this deadline is violated. The declaration itself shows the date of its submission and the date when the income/gift was received or the asset was purchased. Violation of the 10-day deadline for submitting the form of changes is subject to administrative liability (see paragraph 2.4)

The “Gifts, prizes, charitable contributions make up> 75% of income” flag. The system will show this flag when the amount of income of the declarant and their family consists of gifts and charitable assistance by 75%, which may indicate an attempt to legalize money of questionable origin.

The  “Prizes/lottery winnings of more than UAH 10,000” flag. The database will indicate when an official has declared income (their or their relative’s) in the form of a winning or  a prize of more than UAH 10,000, which may also indicate an attempt to legalize money of questionable origin.

The “Has an aircraft” flag. The database will display it if the official has declared, for example, the possession or use of a helicopter. It is worth studying in more detail the origin of the money used to afford.

In addition to the above, declarations.com.ua will let you know when an official has suspiciously large debts. The flag says “Obligations 2+ times higher than assets and income“. It includes amounts of family obligations. The database will also signal when the declarant spends too much money. The “Expenses are 3+ times higher than assets and income” flag. Also, when the official indicated that they didn’t know the value of a potentially expensive property because “A family member did not provide information.”

The same risk factors are used in the analytics module of the declarations.com.ua database, which is described in detail in the next section. In the analytics module, the red flag feature provides additional opportunities, such as to inspect a large array of data for analysis against risk parameters.

4.6. Analytics module

The analytics module in the database declarations.com.ua allows you to form a complex sample of declarations on various parameters, most of these samples can not be formed by searching, even using the advanced search. Here, you can form samples not by keywords, but by range.

For example, with the help of the Analytics menu, you can find all the officials who have declared real estate with a total area of over a thousand square meters. Or all employees of a particular department who have declared luxury cars. Or anyone who keeps more than 5 million in cash under their mattress. Or the regions where officials have the highest incomes. Or all those who have more than 1 million hryvnias of debt.

Go to the Analytics menu and you will be presented with the system where you have to choose the filters you need.

In the General Information tab, select the agency you are interested in, as well as the region and reporting year. You can select multiple agencies, years, or regions at once. If you do not apply filters, the system will build analytics on the entire existing array of declarations but be prepared, it will be done rather slowly.

In the Income and Assets and Obligations and Expenses tabs you can select declarations of officials by:

  1. income, savings, expenses, or obligations exceed certain amounts;
  2. monetary assets, expenses, or obligations are several times higher than official income;
  3. a certain percentage of their savings is in cash;
  4. the officials sponge on the parents: the income or monetary assets of their family members are several times higher than the income or savings of the official.

The Immovables tab allows you to filter declarants who have:

  1. the overall area of their land or real estate exceeds a certain amount;
  2. immovables or land were not indicated;
  3. most of the land or immovables are registered for their family members.

The Vehicles tab allows filtering by year of manufacture and car brands. You can select all declarations that have vehicles or that don’t have any, where the total value of all vehicles exceeds a certain amount, or if there are any luxury cars.

The Regional Segment tab shows you regional analytics, but it will only work if a specific Oblast was not selected in the General Information tab. Here, you can find out in which Oblasts officials and members of their families have the highest average income, where the most expensive cars are or the most real estate was declared, in which regions the most savings are kept in cash, and so on.

The analytics module also has the Risk Analysis tab with all the red flags functionality described in section 4.5. But here, you can not just open a specific declaration and see the flags in it, but independently form a whole sample of various suspicious parameters: when savings are many times higher than official income, there is foreign real estate, too much debt, millions in cash or suspiciously large lottery winnings.

Once you have selected all the necessary filters, go to the List of Declarants tab to find out the names of the officials who fall under the chosen parameters. You will be shown a spreadsheet with their full names, positions, links to their declarations, and summary data from them. You can also further search through this array: push the search button, and, for example, you can look among the declarations of all judges for only the Supreme Court ones or to select only officials who drive Lexus.

But keep in mind that the data can sometimes be duplicated due to the fact that the relatives of these officials are also officials and also file declarations. Therefore, try not to form very large samples, as well as analyze and clean the sample from unnecessary results.

You can download the sample data as a .XLSX file and continue to analyze it on your personal device. More about this in paragraph 4.8.

Note: The analytics module works with the entire data array. When processing such a large number of documents, errors may happen (mainly due to mistakes of the declarants themselves). All results of the analytics module are “consulational”, be sure to check them before making publication or conclusions.

4.7. Regional landing pages

Regional landing pages contain a consolidated analysis of regional public authorities. Currently, such pages are created for Oblast councils and city councils of Oblast centers. (The sample will be further expanded.) The task of the landing pages is to facilitate the work of regional journalists and analysts by simplifying the search for suspicious declarations by officials in their region.

You can get to the regional landing pages from the main menu. Then, select the region you are interested in and a government agency in that region.

Note: officials’ declarations were manually added to landing pages. As it turned out, in several regions, some deputies of local councils do not consider it necessary to submit declarations, as we have already informed the NACP. After they submit their declarations, we will add them to the landings. As of today, the number of such persons does not exceed 20 in entire Ukraine.

The main elements of a landing page: general analytics, comparative list, detailed data.

The first thing you encounter on the landing page is general analytics on declarations. By default, the analytics are based on the documents of the most recent year, but it is possible to choose any other. Annual declarations are analyzed.

In this visualization, it is easy to see declarations that stand out from the average values. Each declarant is represented by a circle on the chart :

  1. The horizontal position depends on the income of the declarant
  2. The vertical position depends on the income of his family.
  3. The size of the circle is the total assets specified in the declaration.
  4. Color saturation signifies the total area of real estate (maximum color depth means more than 500 square meters)
  5. The thickness of the red line around is the number of red flags (risk factors) in the declaration.

It should be noted that the horizontal and vertical position of the circle depends on the income of the declarant and their family for the year of declaration, and the size correlates with the assets. Large balls can be located at near zero if the declarant has almost no income in the current year, but there are significant savings for previous periods.

If you are interested in a certain declarant, then click on his circle and you will see his declaration for all years in the same format. This allows you to quickly understand the dynamics of changes in the declarant’s income.

Below the visualization is a comparative list of all declarants who are members of the agency you chose. This list makes it as easy as possible to get a general idea of the property and wealth of the declarants.

Important: The list is formed for the same year you have selected in the visualization above. You can also change the year in the visualization.

For convenience, declarants can be sorted by total assets (specifically total assets, not last year’s profits), the number of risk factors, or simply alphabetically.

Separate columns in the list include name, risk factors, income, assets, cars, real estate, and land.

For risk factors, the total number is displayed, but when you hover over the number, you will see a transcript of which flags were triggered by the declaration in a pop-up.

Below the indicators of income, assets, real estate, and land there is an illustration of how much this indicator has increased (green) or decreased (red) compared to the previous year. It is specified as a percentage. If instead of the percentage figure you see an indicator of three green pluses, it means that for the previous year the indicator is zero (and it is impossible to calculate the percentage).

If there are dashes in front of the declarant’s name, it means that they did not file a declaration for the year you have chosen.

Clicking on each of these pointers displays a separate graph in the pop-up window showing the change of the indicator from year to year (separately for the declarant, separately for their family).

When you click on the declarant’s name, you get to the page of his detailed data.

The first thing you see are detailed charts of the main sections of the declaration. It contains data not only on income and assets but also on the declarant’s expenses, as well as obligations (debts). As in the abbreviated version, each chart is drawn separately for the declarant and separately for his family members.

The second option shows all the connections of the declarant based on his declaration. Both the people with whom they are associated and the codes of companies mentioned in the declarations are indicated. Family members, companies where the declarant worked or received money from, etc. are listed as connections. Clicking on the name of a related person or a company code displays other connections, allowing you to build a complete map.

The third option is a list of all documents from which the data for analytics are obtained. A quick transition to these documents allows you to view them to manually refine the data or get more information. By clicking the “Compare” button on the documents tab, you will go to the infographic of the standard tool for comparing declarations for the already sorted documents.

4.8. Data upload and analysis in third-party services

The analytics module allows you to download the sample you have selected (“Download” button on the right) to continue your analysis.

With Excel, for example, you can then calculate the total income or savings of officials in the sample, sort the amounts in ascending or descending order and identify the richest or poorest declarants. In the same way, you can manually clean up the duplicates that were included in the sample through the declarations of relatives or remove the declarations that are not of employees of the department, but of representatives of public councils.

We also recommend the free Open Refine program to clean the data. Among other things, it will help find errors such as numbers too large, words instead of numbers, empty values, typos, or inconsistencies in values, and it can also help you filter and aggregate data.

Ideas for topics for materials based on large samples are described in detail in our video course.

We have implemented open API access on the declaration.com.ua website. To use it, you have to form a request of any complexity using the website’s instruments (including the full-text search, filters, search operators, and declaration sorting) and then add &format=opendata in the address bar.

The data is downloaded in JSON format. The information on each declaration will be divided into the following 5 sections:

  • guid – unique line code of the document;
  • infocard – a short card of the document with information about the declarant (name, place of work, and position), type of declaration, etc .;
  • raw_source – for electronic declarations, this section will provide a link to a machine-readable copy of it on the NACP website. For paper declarations, it will have a complete machine-readable declaration document in the old format;
  • unified_source – for paper declarations, there will be a document converted from the old format into the electronic declaration form. For new electronic declarations, this section will contain a complete document with minor format adjustments that we make for standardization;
  • related_entities – here, you will find a list of the declarant’s relatives, all the companies mentioned in the declaration, and links to related documents (i.e. to the corrected declarations for this year or vice versa, to the declaration that was corrected).

You can find and in-depth instructions on how to use the API service and an example program in Python to download data here. For further analysis of the obtained data set, we recommend using the programming language R.

4.9. Bots and mobile version

Sometimes a journalist or activist may need to quickly find some information from the declarations while being on a mission when there is no access to a computer. In this situation, you can use the Declarations Bot on Telegram, Messenger, or Skype. You can use it to search for all declarations of an official by their name, as well as to use full-text search. For example, you can meet a judge driving a Bentley at the Economic Court of Kyiv and want to ask her a question. To find out what her name is, just write the keyword “Bentley Economic Court Kyiv” to the bot, and you will immediately receive a link to the declaration of the judge who owns such a vehicle.

You can also use the bot to subscribe to a request by clicking the corresponding button. If you need to unsubscribe from something, you need to write the phrase “my subscriptions” and cancel the monitorings you no longer need.

Information in the bot can be searched in Ukrainian, Russian, and English. The developers have made it as lifelike as possible, so he appreciates gratitude, responds to the slogan “Glory to Ukraine!”, and if no results were found on your request, it can cheer you up with a joke.

You may also find the Top Declarations channel in Telegram useful. By subscribing to it, you will receive notifications about recent declarations of the President, members of the Presidential Office and the Cabinet of Ministers, judges of the Constitutional and Supreme Courts, members of the Verkhovna Rada, and mayors of Oblast centers.

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