NABU candidate Komarova shares details of hiring scandal at anti-corruption body

7 May, 12:46 PM
Olha Komarova (Photo:Ольга Комарова/Facebook)

Olha Komarova (Photo:Ольга Комарова/Facebook)

Author: Vlasta Lazur

Olha Komarova participated in an open competition for the position of Deputy Head of the External Relations Department at the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine (NABU) and has raised concerns about the pressure placed on her to withdraw from the competition, despite passing it successfully. In the aftermath of a scandal that has unfolded at NABU following the competition, Komarova spoke with Radio NV in an interview on May 6 to share the details of her experience.

NV: Transparent competitions are something that NABU takes great pride in. Many anti-corruption experts consider transparent competitive hiring procedures to be the main motivation for NABU employees. But it turns out that you can pass the competition, be summoned by the deputy head of NABU, and told that you won’t be working there. Was that the case for you?

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Komarova: First of all, I want to explain what the competition itself is. It’s a “sacred” process designed to prevent the organization’s leaders from selecting convenient or inconvenient people, and instead choosing individuals based on their professional qualities, knowledge, and integrity.

So, the competition is not just about passing an interview. It is a very long procedure that took over two months. I had 38 pages of documents alone to submit. This included filling out a declaration, taking exams on Ukrainian language proficiency, and a lot of documents that needed to be filled out. Then, there was testing on knowledge of legislation, which was done at the Bureau through computerized tests. And then, there was an interview and an additional test task.

There were ten members of the commission at the interview. It was a huge number. It was my first time at an interview where representatives of the Bureau, representatives of the public council, and representatives of donors sat at the table and asked me questions to find out how professional I was.

After that, I was informed that I had won, that I had become the winner of this competition, and that I would be recommended for hiring. And the integrity check procedure began, which was another lengthy procedure involving filling out questionnaires. (Naturally), when Polina Lysenko invited me, I sincerely thought it would be related to my appointment.

NV: I will clarify: Polina Lysenko is the deputy head of NABU.

Komarova: I believed that this would be a conversation about when I’d be starting the job and when to take the oath (of office), but she immediately started speaking in a very superficial tone. It was a conversation of someone who wants to show their power. She didn’t directly ask me to refuse, but I perceived it as pressure to do so. She said that I would not work in the Bureau, and there were two options for how this would happen. Either the director simply wouldn’t sign off on my appointment, or I would be appointed and fired the next day because the position would be eliminated due to a reorganization.

This was shocking news for me, and I didn’t take it very well. We started arguing right in the office, and I said everything to her face that I later wrote on Facebook. I gave her a warning and said that I had a different opinion because I was really looking forward to working there with a positive attitude. But it just shocked me.

I don’t accept her argument that she had this conversation in a humane way at all. I perceive it as manipulation. After all, you can talk to your friends and acquaintances in a humane way. We have never met before. This is a civil servant, and civil servants have their own regulations, procedures, and mechanisms for everything.

Of course, it would be more comfortable for her if I just took back my documents – as there would be nothing to be solved in that case. However, I believe that it just so happened that I am a person who does not tolerate injustice. And, of course, I am an uncomfortable person for the civil service.

I wouldn’t have applied to just any agency. I applied to NABU because I believed that my qualities, such as zero tolerance for injustice, would be useful there. And, of course, I couldn’t keep this in the public domain, so I told her about it.

The first thing I did (after talking to her) was to call the detective from internal control who handled my case regarding my integrity check and inform him of all the circumstances that I reveal publicly.

NV: And what did he say to you?

Komarova: Actually, he didn’t say anything to me. He was in some kind of stupor. He said that he couldn’t say anything to me right now and that we need to figure this situation out, so there was no specific information. I told him that I was ready to provide all the necessary explanations if there was an internal investigation or something else, like writing a statement, but I haven’t received that sort of request yet. The only people who contacted me were the Council of Public Control, who tried to find out the circumstances of what happened. They later made a statement. I haven’t had any contact with NABU employees regarding the resolution of this situation. From the public comments of both the director and his deputy, I can see that they decided to eliminate this position and not communicate it further.

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NV: Do you think they really started this reorganization irresponsibly and non-transparently, and you just got caught up in it, and you had to explain yourself somehow? Or do you interpret this as an unwillingness to take “someone else’s” person?

Komarova: I’m convinced that this is their way of forming their own team under their control. Based on the information I have, I almost have no doubts about it.

My assumption is that they will start eliminating [positions] now, beginning with the administrative staff. They may cut communication to some departments, leaving only technical staff, demote some people, and perhaps just fire others. They will then hire political technologists and PR specialists with money from donors, with whom they will work. They are comfortable working with them because they do not fall under the category of civil servants, and there are no restrictions [on them], while everything [else] is heavily regulated.

What will happen next? They will work with this team, covering it up by saying they need positions for detectives.

However, if this scheme works well, it will spread to those detectives who will also be uncomfortable for them to keep. In my opinion, this practice may become widespread in this agency now, and it is a significant threat that needs to be resisted.

Therefore, it will be necessary to see who else they will dismiss, who they will lay off, and to what extent personal relationships with management will have an impact, and whether they will really cut out any “inconvenient" people.

I believe that the public should now watch this situation very carefully. At the very least, I will watch it closely. I insist that Polina Lysenko should be fired. Her behavior is unacceptable for a civil servant of such a level.

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