№5 Overview of other data sources (RING)
In any investigation, including one based on officials’ declarations, the journalist is faced with the need to collect and compare data from many sources. The Ring website, an online database made by Bihus.Info that combines 20 open data sources, can somewhat simplify this tedious process.
On the main page of the site, you will see a search bar, where you can enter virtually anything including last names, first names, and patronymics of people, names, or codes of companies, addresses, or phone numbers. The system will then start searching for any matches across 20 datasets at once.
Since the Ring contains a lot of different information, sometimes there is a need to clarify the query (for example, to fix the order of words, add or discard a word, look for similar ones). To do this, you can use the same search operators as on declarations.com.ua. The are described in detail in section 4.1 of this manual.
You can expand and view the list of datasets under the search bar. By default, the service searches across all datasets, but you may exclude one or more if needed. The Ring includes the following data sources:
- Paper and electronic declarations of officials – if you are investigating an official, all their declarations can be found at once on Ring. The site also supports full-text search across declarations, and if a person or a company appears in someone’s property and income report, you will find out about that.
- Declarations of family ties of judges – this source helps to quickly and easily find relatives of judges or, vice versa, to learn about the connections of some of your other people of interest with judges.
- Participants in the 2015 local elections – with the help of this dataset you can learn about a person’s connection with certain political forces, as well as their basic biographical information: date of birth, education, and place of work.
- Assistants to MPs and local deputies – this sources allows you to make a map of your subject’s connections, track their political career and party transitions. When it comes to analyzing declarations, top officials often hide their property and business assets not behind their relatives, but behind associates. For example, a People’s Deputy registered hunting and yacht clubs to his assistants, as journalists of Bihus.Info reported in one of their investigations.
- Financial reports of parties and candidates – here, you can find out whether a person or company supported a certain political force with money, and, again, draw conclusions about their relationship.
- Register of persons convicted of corruption – will tell you whether a person has been convicted of corruption offenses. For example, it may turn out that your person of interest has already been fined for late submission of a declaration or a few years ago, they was caught taking a bribe.
- Register of owners of luxury real estate – this source greatly simplifies finding expensive property registered to relatives of officials. The data are drawn from another project of White Collar Hundred and Bihus.Info, the HarnaKhata website, where developers have collected information about property owners in luxury residential complexes and cottage towns. But keep in mind that it is only valid as of a certain date. Therefore, if you find information about your subject or their relative, be sure to take extracts from the state register of real estate regarding the addresses of each property.
- Unified State Register of Legal Entities – allows you to find a list of all companies where a person appears as a director or founder. In the official register, you need to pay to get extracts, but in our Ring database you can do that absolutely free of charge and in a few clicks. Also, it allows you to immediately see the history of registration changes of a company over the past few years, and it is convenient to collect information about business partners – just click on their name and this will give you search results in a new tab. Data are updated from the official state register every working day.
- Owners of significant shares, and reports of joint-stock companies – you can find data on the owners of more than 5% of shares of joint-stock companies in datasets drawn from the database of the Stock Market Infrastructure Development Agency (SMIDA). But the data on shareholders is updated quarterly, so, to know if there have been any changes since then, always check the reports of joint stock companies, which can also be found on the Ring.
- Registration of companies with the State Fiscal Service – this source shows you whether a company is registered with the tax service. It contains 80,000 more companies than the Unified State Register of Legal Entities. These are mostly companies from the 1990s and early 2000s, which appeared before the USR was introduced and avoided registration. And this creates a huge problem, because while they can conduct activities, it is impossible to find out the names of their owners.
- Winners of public procurement contracts – when you need to check whether a company related to an official has participated in public procurement, you don’t have to visit ProZorro or the Public Procurement Bulletin. The Ring shows you general information about the contracts – their budget, the customer, and the subject of purchase. From that point on, you can go directly to the original source and analyze the purchase in more detail.
- Tax debt – this source shows you whether a person or company pays taxes honestly and whether they have debts to the state. But remember that the information about the debt is drawn as of the first day of each month and if you need to find out if there’s any debt now, follow the link on the tax service’s website and check.
- British Register of Companies – will help to find the business of a person involved in the UK or to find out the beneficiaries of a British company without spending time learning to use and searching in a foreign register. But the data may be outdated, so do not forget to follow the link to the company’s card in the original source and check the relevance of the data.
- Licenses and permits of the State Architecture and Construction Inspectorate – allows you to find out about the issuance or revocation of licenses for construction activities for companies or individual entrepreneurs, as well as to find construction documents for specific addresses. For example, it may turn out that your person of interest is building a dacha, but does not declare it as an object of unfinished construction. Alternatively, you can find the address of an official’s house which he did not turn over to avoid showing in the real estate register.
- Urban planning conditions and restrictions – this source shows you the requirements the developer must comply with: what should be the height of the building, the distance between objects, the percentage of land development and population density, landscaping requirements, etc.
- Licenses of SE Geoinform – this source lists special permits for the research, development, and extraction of minerals.
Registers of real estate and vehicles, registers of legal entities, and court registers are also actively used in the analysis of officials’ declarations. We have already partially touched upon them in paragraphs 3.3. and 3.4. However, when you are working with them, you should remember certain rules and take into account their specific qualities, so as not to accidentally come to wrong conclusions and disseminate inaccurate information.
The main thing to keep in mind is that every Ukrainian can have quite a lot of full namesakes, and registers will also give out information about their business, property, or lawsuits. Therefore, you should always carefully check whether the information found relates to the person you are researching. Unfortunately, in Ukraine, there is no public identifier that would be individual for each citizen and used in all registers. Therefore, it is necessary to separate information about a certain person in various ways.
For the Unified State Register of Legal Entities and its commercial or public analogs, such an identifier is the place of registration of the company’s founder. However, it may change many times throughout the years, and in the case of companies founded a while ago, an old place of registration will appear. Therefore, you must first make a list of all possible addresses of your person of interest and their relatives using the real estate register and the “All Ukraine – Residents” website and use it to compare against when searching for information on businesses.
To get information about the property of a particular person from the register of real estate, you need to take an extract using their identification code. But until 2013, when registering real estate, it was not the owner’s Tax ID Number that could be indicated, but his passport number, thus, not all information can be obtained on such a request. In general, one of the biggest disadvantages of this register is that it often lacks information from the old years. Also, in an extract about a person or a company, you will not receive up-to-date information as of the time of the request, but a list of all objects that he or she once owned. To check the relevance of each entry, you need to take another extract for the address of the property.
To get information about the cars of a particular person from the register of vehicles, you need to take an extract for their name with the date of birth. But keep in mind that the section “Registration date” in the extract sometimes may not be the actual time of purchase of the car, and the date of the last changes in the registration documents may have been just the installation of gas cylinder equipment, repainting, recovery of lost documents, etc.
When searching on the Ukrainian Judiciary website for information about court cases featuring your person of interest, pay attention to their territorial jurisdiction. If your subject is registered, say, in the Pechersk district of Kyiv, then the trial in the first instance will be in the Pechersk District Court. But this method doesn’t work in all cases, as certain categories of cases may be considered in specialized courts or at the locality where the offense took place. Therefore, it’s advisable to also look for additional identifiers in the text of court decisions, such as the place of work or residence of the people of interest.
Розробка текстових матеріалів посібника стала можливою завдяки підтримці програми #USAID_ВзаємоДія в рамках проекту «Декларації IV: Нова надія», який реалізується ГО «Канцелярська Сотня». Цей Проект став можливим завдяки Агентству Сполучених Штатів з міжнародного розвитку та щедрій підтримці американського народу. Окремі думки, висловлені у цьому матеріалі, є відповідальністю авторів і необов’язково відображають погляди Агентства USAID або Уряду США.