Ukrainian Anticorruption Activists Dare 'Sissy Pants' Officials To Declare Assets
Christopher Miller October 18, 2016
KYIV -- Ukrainians are attempting to shame top public officials into disclosing their financial assets by calling those who don't "sissy pants."
Anticorruption activists played off the word "trusi," which means both underwear and cowards in Ukrainian, to emphasize their point as they assembled in front of the parliament building in Kyiv on October 18.
With the aim of reminding bureaucrats that they are now legally required to file electronic asset declarations, the activists from a half-dozen anticorruption and reform groups hung boxers and thongs from makeshift clotheslines, waved posters adorned with underwear, and demanded in English, "Hey, sissy pants, submit your e-declarations!"
Ukraine recently implemented a new electronic system for public officials to disclose their income and assets, part of a package of reforms demanded by Ukrainian reformists as well as the country's Western backers. The idea is to prevent public officials from hiding or underestimating their earnings and possessions, and the implementation of the new law is viewed as a much needed step in fighting systemic corruption.
The activists believe that officials should come clean to the public they serve by complying with the law, or risk exposing their own dirty laundry, so to speak. Failure to file an e-declaration risks criminal prosecution.
"Anyone who fails to file electronic declarations is subject to criminal liability," Vitaliy Shabunin, director of the Anticorruption Action Center (AntAC) and an organizer of the event, warned parliament deputies at the demonstration.
The much anticipated e-declaration system was delayed several times before finally being launched on August 15. But almost immediately it was found to have flaws in its design and application that prevented it from fully functioning and forced it to temporarily shut down.
Skeptics accused the government of dragging its feet to allow officials with financial assets several times the amount of their actual government salaries to find a way to cleverly conceal them.
The botched launch was seen as at least part of the reason for the delay of the most recent $1 billion tranche of International Monetary Fund (IMF) money to help steer war-stricken Ukraine out of recession and replenish its foreign reserves.
The IMF money was finally approved on September 15, following the relaunch of the e-system on September 1.
But as of October 13, only around 6,500 public officials -- or about 13 percent of some 50,000 nationwide -- had entered their annual declarations in the state register, according to AntAC.
The official deadline for all public officials to submit their electronic declarations is October 31.
Among those who have yet to declare their earnings are President Petro Poroshenko, Prime Minister Volodymyr Hroysman, and speaker of parliament Andriy Parubiy.
None of the three, who were called out in a tweet by Shabunin that said they should serve as an example for all officials by filing well before the deadline, was immediately available for comment.
The activists, armed with their signs and "sissy pants," later took their protest down the road to the Cabinet of Ministers and the presidential administration.
"Only the corrupt are afraid of the e-declaration system," they said.
Copyright (c) 2016. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.
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