13 organizations join Ukraine’s Defense Ministry oversight board

13 February, 09:02 PM
Reznikov announces reboot of the Anti-Corruption Department of the Ministry of Defense (Photo:JULIE SEBADELHA/Pool/Reuters)

Reznikov announces reboot of the Anti-Corruption Department of the Ministry of Defense (Photo:JULIE SEBADELHA/Pool/Reuters)

Thirteen civil society organizations have already joined the Anti-Corruption Council at the Ukrainian Defense Ministry, formed after a series of high-profile food procurement scandals, Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov said in a Facebook post on Feb. 13.

“There are multiple challenges (facing the ministry),” said Reznikov.

“Therefore, we agreed to move as quickly as possible. I am grateful to the experts for their constructive work and criticism, as well as for their willingness to help us devise all the necessary procedures.”

The minister provided the following list of organizations on the oversight board:

Video of day

·       Defense Procurement Reform Project;

·       Project for Strengthening Integrity and Professionalism in the Ministry of Defense;

·       Bihus Info;

·       Centre for Defence Strategies

·       Dmytro Tymchuk Ukrainian Center for the Study of Security Problems’

·       NGO Democratic Axe;

·       NGO StopCor;

·       Center for Army, Conversion and Disarmament Studies;

·       CO Volunteer Movement;

·       NGO Razom Proty Koruptsiii;

·       Public Control Council at the NABU (National Anti-Corruption Bureau);

·       Volunteer movement Automaidan;

·       NGO National Food Service Association.

On Feb. 8, Reznikov said that the Defense Ministry would reboot its anti-corruption department – after a series of high-profile corruption scandals and subsequent dismissals of several top officials.

Before that, he thanked everyone for their constructive criticism and announced that he would continue to strengthen Ukraine’s defense.

Reports about the possible resignation of Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov emerged against the backdrop of a high-profile corruption scandal in the Defense Ministry over the purchase of food for the Armed Forces at inflated prices and charges of embezzlement against several top officials of the ministry.

On Feb. 5, Ukrainian media reported that Reznikov was to be transferred to the Ministry of Strategic Industries, with Defense Intelligence chief Kyrylo Budanov taking his place.

Reznikov, commenting on rumors of his dismissal, said he would step down if President Volodymyr Zelenskyy made such a decision.

Ukrainian army’s food procurement scandal

On Jan. 21, Yuriy Nikolov, founder of the Nashi Hroshi (Our Money) investigation project, penned an article for Ukrainian newspaper ZN.UA, alleging that Defense Ministry pays several times more for common food items – compared to prices in Kyiv grocery stores.

Nikolov compared some prices for foods in a state contract with a catering company he obtained from “a source within the Armed Forces of Ukraine” with the prices in Ukraine's supermarket chain Silpo.

Defense Ministry called the report “misleading” and “manipulative”. Reznikov said it was an attempt to undermine public confidence in the Ukrainian military.

The President's Office announced an investigation. The ministry has promised its own internal investigation.

Activ company, which ZN.UA called an intermediary in the corruption scheme, claimed the media report engaged in “deliberate manipulation” of facts.

The National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine (NABU) and the Specialized Anti-Corruption Prosecutor's Office (SAPO) said they are investigating possible abuses by the Ministry of Defense while producing food for the army. The contracts under inspection are valued at UAH 13 billion ($351 million).

As allegations of fraud swirled, Deputy Minister of Defense Vyacheslav Shapovalov resigned. The head of the Ministry of Defense department, Bohdan Khmelnytskyi, who was responsible for procurement, was also dismissed.

On Feb. 1, the State Bureau of Investigation charged the former deputy minister of defense, former acting director of the Defense Ministry's Department of Public Procurement and Supply of Material Resources, and another employee of the Defense Ministry.

On Feb. 2, Kyiv's Pechersk District Court arrested former deputy minister Shapovalov for two months, with a UAH 400 million ($10.9 million) bail.

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