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ukraine-conference

When one thinks about Ukraine in the context of corruption, the picture typically does not look rosy. The headlines about corrupt oligarchy and continued graft easily come to mind – including recent revelations about the riches disclosed by top officials in their asset declarations. This wealth stands in stark contrast with the financial condition of most ordinary Ukrainians, causing public outcry. Not surprisingly, Ukraine was ranked 130th out of 167 in the latest Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index.

Yet, an overly pessimistic view of Ukraine’s anti-corruption prospects runs the risk of overlooking important positive developments. Last week I attended a conference in Kyiv organized by CIPE and its partner, the Ukrainian Corporate Governance Professional Association (UGCPA), with support from the American Chamber of Commerce in Ukraine and the Commercial Law Development Program (CLDP) of the U.S. Department of Commerce. This event, which gathered over 150 participants, shed a spotlight on an often underappreciated aspect of Ukraine’s anti-corruption efforts: what the private sector is doing to limit the opportunities of corruption in how businesses operate.

The conference was divided into two parts. The first half looked at Ukraine’s anti-corruption regulations and their implementation as well as the international standards of anti-corruption compliance in business. This is where I presented on a panel discussing the importance for Ukrainian businesses of laws such as the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, the UK Bribery Act, and the just-launched ISO 37001 standard on anti-bribery management systems. My fellow panelists emphasized the wide-reaching jurisdiction of the global anti-bribery enforcements. Maryana Marchuk, Adviser at Baker & McKenzie, pointed for instance to the case of a Ukrainian natural gas magnate Dmitry Firtash (discussed recently on CIPE’s Corporate Compliance Blog) that illustrated the FCPA’s ability to establish jurisdiction over a bribe paid in India.

The second part of the day focused on practical experiences of Ukrainian companies in developing and implementing anti-corruption compliance programs. The sessions featured presenters from major businesses such as Ukraine’s largest power company DTEK and Kyivstar, the largest mobile network operator in the country. Practitioners and lawyers also provided their perspectives on the challenges and best practices in anti-corruption compliance.

The discussion emphasized that compliance matters not just for large companies but also mid-sized enterprises that want to do business with larger – and especially multinational – counterparts. To that end, CIPE and UCGPA have been working together to build the capacity of enterprises in Ukraine to understand and comply with such international standards. The two organizations have been training local companies on best practices in anti-corruption compliance. CIPE is also assisting UCGPA in creating a professional association of anti-corruption compliance officers, and establishing an online resource center to provide educational materials and details of recent enforcement actions. This private sector-led work importantly augments the efforts to curb grand corruption, and shows that even in difficult circumstances progress toward greater integrity is possible.

Anna Kompanek is Director of Multiregional Programs at the Center for International Private Enterprise