President promises government changes after reports of corruption in defense and infrastructure ministries.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said he will make changes to the government and security services as part of a renewed crackdown on corruption nearly a year after Russia invaded the country.
In his nightly video address on Monday, Zelenskyy did not name the officials who would be replaced, but indicated that the reshuffle was imminent.
“There are already personnel decisions – some today, some tomorrow – concerning officials of different levels in ministries and other central government structures, as well as in the regions and in the law enforcement system,” the president said.
Zelenskyy was elected in a landslide in 2019 on promises to reform the government and tackle corruption that plagued the country long before Moscow sent its troops across the border on February 24 last year.
Ukraine was ranked 122 out of 180 countries in Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index in 2021.
Over the weekend, it emerged that the Defense Department had been buying food for soldiers at inflated prices, raising questions about the government’s procurement processes.
On Sunday, anti-corruption police said they had detained the deputy infrastructure minister on suspicion of receiving a $400,000 bribe to facilitate the import of generators into wartime Ukraine last September. The deputy minister was also relieved of his duties.
Ukrainian media have reported that a number of cabinet ministers and senior officials could be fired if Zelenskyy takes steps to streamline the government.
One of the president’s closest allies said earlier that corrupt officials would be “actively” jailed.
Corruption in Ukraine. There are two emerging procurement scandals. Both show that corruption is incidental, but that the cultural shift to fight it is systemic. This is my opinion as a former UA economy minister. 1/
— Tymofiy Mylovanov (@Mylovanov) January 22, 2023
Zelensky also announced on Monday that government officials would not be allowed to make personal trips abroad.
The move followed revelations that Deputy Prosecutor General Oleksiy Symonenko had vacationed in Spain in December and January in a Mercedes owned by a Lviv businessman. Citing law enforcement sources, the online newspaper Ukrainska Pravda reported that Symonenko had resigned.
A parliamentary committee on Monday agreed to tighten procurement rules and make some prices public in times of conflict.
Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov, quoted by the media, told the commission that the reports of corruption at the ministry were based on a “technical error” in which no money changed hands.
The National Anti-Corruption Bureau said it was investigating the possible crime of appropriation of funds or abuse of power related to the tender, which it said was valued at more than 13 billion Ukrainian hryvnia ($352 million).
Ukraine’s economy shrank by a third last year and the country is heavily dependent on Western financial aid. Donors, including the International Monetary Fund and the European Union, have repeatedly called for more transparency and better governance.