The government of Ukraine and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) signed a memorandum of understanding on the Ukrainian anti-corruption initiatives, involving the establishment of the business ombudsman agency. The document was signed on May 12 by Prime Minister of Ukraine Arsenii Yatseniuk and EBRD President Suma Chakrabarti.
“For business community, this means that they will have an independent person having the right to publicly appeal to the government in the event they detect corruption in customs, tax, other government agencies and state regulators that would infringe on the rights of entrepreneurs,” Yatseniuk stated. He said that the establishment of the business ombudsman would give the EBRD and other foreign investors confidence that their investments in the economy of Ukraine would be used transparently.
Yatseniuk noted that the business ombudsman will be chosen by consensus between the relevant business associations operating in Ukraine, and the government. “The government will get its public critic that will track corruption and speak clearly on how to overcome it, what laws and other legal instruments are to be adopted for business,” he said. According to Yatseniuk, business ombudsman should be a person with significant experience in business.
EBRD President stressed the importance of signing this document, because “now the business community will have greater confidence in the protection of their business.” He said the EBRD had invested in Ukrainian economy about 400 million euros since the start of 2014. “We can invest at least one billion dollars each year, if the government continues its anti-corruption policies,” Chakrabarti added.
When attending the meeting, president of the Ukrainian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs Anatolii Kinakh asked the prime minister to prepare and pass as soon as possible the necessary laws and regulations that would enable the business ombudsman to fully perform their duties.
Other signatories of the memorandum included Hennadii Chyzhykov for the Commerce and Industry Chamber of Ukraine, Dmytro Oliinyk for the Federation of Employers of Ukraine, Hanna Derevianko for the European Business Association, and Bernard Casey for the American Chamber of Commerce.
Hanna DEREVIANKO, Director of the European Business Association:
“The initiative of establishing the business ombudsman agency to combat corruption in Ukraine originated with the EBRD. They are doing a lot to improve the business climate here. The rest of the signatories of the memorandum and the people who contributed to this idea, of course, support the EBRD. After all, corruption is really one of the major issues of concern for the business community in Ukraine.
“Whether it will work is what we are concerned today with as signatories of this memorandum. We would like to have the business ombudsman granted effective powers for fighting corruption, making that agency into an effective tool. As the Association, we, of course, will provide systematic data on corruption, should our members face it, and it is important for us to see a response from the state.
“The business ombudsman has already been tried by foreign nations such as Georgia, the USA, the UK, and Russia. However, it would be incorrect to say that a particular experience must be implemented in Ukraine. Different countries have different conditions and different needs. For example, the US business ombudsman operates primarily to protect small and medium businesses, while its UK counterpart acts as the airbag in the financial market, and so on. Different countries have different funding models for this institution and ways of election of the head, as well as vary in their definitions the scope of work... I would like us to look at the experience of different countries and average them out to create what will be the best for us. Eventually, all these questions will be answered by the rules contained in relevant legislation. I hope that the prime minister is aware of this and will do everything possible to help transform the memorandum’s intentions into practical steps of Ukrainian legislation.
“We have not yet discussed who could become the first business ombudsman in Ukraine. The memorandum states that it should be a person supported by all the signatories of the memorandum. In my opinion, though, the EBRD will be one of the leading voices in this matter.”