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Vicious circle


  MyLand, 09/03/2010:


  Mr Belchyk, Deputy Head of the State Committee of Ukraine on Land Resources (Derzhkomzem) held a briefing for journalists on March 4, 2010. The breifing was about new licence rules. We would like to bring to your attention some facts revealed and some conclusions made.
  Some time ago Derzhkomzem passed new Licence Rules for land surveyors and land valuators. New rules are said to be more stringent as well as more expensive to implement - they require private surveyors to have more equipment and employ more people etc. There is nothing odd that private sector was unhappy about new rules; moreover, Derzhkomzem passed new rules and made them effective very soon allowing only two-month period for preparation. New rules came into force on January 1, 2010, and right away Derzhkomzem initiated checks upon land surveyors. As a result, 30 licences have already been withdrawn because of licensee failure to comply with new rules.
  At the same time surveyors were challenging actions of Derzhkomzem in courts, and in some cases Derzhkomzem was found in breach of law of Ukraine when performing checks; in those cases surveyors saved their licences.
  Private surveyors and their professional association, Land Union of Ukraine (LUU), started a campaign in the press in order to bring attention of the Government and public at large to actions of Derzhkomzem which, in view of the LUU, might lead to extinction of private sector of land surveying and monopolization of the sector by state institutes for land engineering (subordinates of Derzhkomzem). Well, we are not sure about the Government and its reaction, but the public may be not the best addressee for land surveyors’ complaints. As a matter of fact, Derzhkomzem put its best efforts into shaping public opinion about land surveyors as greedy crooks who take money and do nothing in return. Derzhkomzem announced that the number of complaints from citizens is constantly growing - allegedely, citizens are very unhappy about the quality of land surveying in Ukraine. According to Derzhkomzem, there were 792 complaints in 2008 and 2930 complaints in 2009.
  Well, it seems that almost everything that parties to the conflict are saying is true, wholly or partly. But in pursuance of its objective to establish "correct" public opinion about "good" licence rules and "bad" land surveyors Derzhkomzem went too far - but too late. It disclosed information about some of its high-ranking officials who abused their position and created land surveying companies which took benefit of the position of their founders in order to suppress competition and impose unfair prices upon customers and get lion share of land surveying work procured by the state. But it done so when conflict over licence rules became very public.
  Why we say that "Derzhkomzem went too far - but too late" - on March 4, 2010 during the briefing for journalists it was announced that recent years were marked by boom on the land market and - as a consequence - certain officials of Derzhkomzem and managers of state enterprises (subordinate of Derzhkomzem) took advantage of their position and abused it - they put their best efforts into facilitation of work of private land surveyors and into ruining of capacity of state enterprises. It turned out that some land surveyor companies were established by the said officials.
  So we would like to ask a question whether we may believe in allegations put forward by Derzhkomzem - it looks like independent private surveyors may well have nothing to do with problems of citizens complaints, and most complaints are entailed by surveyors linked to Derzhkomzem's officials. We cannot believe that the latter could work better (or at least work good) - they had nor need neither incentives to do so, because they were clearly beyond any competition. Thus we do not accept any "generalized" accusations - as soon as the resposibility is always personal, never "general". Or there is going to be no responsibility?
  Derzhkomzem at this briefing disclosed identities of the officials who abused their positions. One may expect that those were only former employees - and that was the case (the king is dead - blame it all on the king). But one may also recover the statement of the Main Control and Revision Office of Ukraine which declared that it was wide-spread practice for officials of territorial bodies of Derzhkomzem to establish land surveying companies which then enjoyed the most favourable and beneficial regime. So we assume that the named former officials are rather scapegoats - and there are much more of those taking advantage of their current positions and of the state budget.
  In particular, three names were announced. Mr Anton Tretyak, former deputy head of Derzhkomzem and nowadays member of the board of LUU, was said to establish a network of land surveying companies which operate in Obukhiv District of Kyiv Oblast (this district is notorious for the highest land prices, residence of the top politicians and laud land scandals - for example, local department of Derzhkomzem was robbed twice, and all the papers and digital information were stolen. Taking into account that there were tons of paper, one had to have lorries to drive documents away). Mr Tretyak was said to involve his family into the business (namely his son and daughter-in-law). At the briefing Derzhkomzem said that there were submissions from MPs and the Office of Prosecutor General of Ukraine in respect of those activities, but efforts of Derzhkomzem to look into the situation met strong resistance of some executive bodies and LUU (the latter is just an NGO - wow, scary!).
  Another one accused of abuse of his position was - also former - deputy head of Derzhkomzem Mr Anatoly Vovk (also member of LUU board). Mr Vovk is also the head of Main Department of Derzhkomzem in Kharkiv Oblast (though Derzhkomzem is trying to give him a sack for a long time, we are not sure whether he is still holding his office). It was announced at the briefing that Mr Vovk along with his wife established two companies which by some coincidence got all contracts for land surveying works in Kharkiv Oblast procured by the state. In 2007-2008 those companies collected into the kitty UAH 4 million (as of today USD 500 thousand).
  There also was mentioned former director of Cherkasy State Institute for Land Surveying, Mr Dmytro KIlochko, who established private land surveying company which managed to perform land surveying of almost 4 thousand plots over 2 years. It was said that the company worked to the detriment of the said State Institute.
  It is very good when light is shed upon such facts and figures. There is only one problem which turns Derzhkomzem struggle for the truth and rule of law into usual rat race - all these facts were revealed to the public only when the conflict over new licence rules got out of control and became very public. We assume that Derzhkomzem would not make those facts an object of public discussion if private surveyors - many of which have no link whatsoever with any former or present official - did not raise their voices against a heavy burden of new licence rules and methods they were enforced. It looks like a principle "live and let live" in action. Had LUU allowed Derzhkomzem to do what it pleased, Derzhkomzem would turn a blind eye to the abuse of position etc.
  We would like to remind the famous words "Let him who is without sin cast the first stone" - it looks like Ukraine is in the deadlock situation when there is nobody to throw stones into corrupt officials because everyone is corrupt. But the system is not viable if it is built upon total corruption - it would fail for sure, sooner or later. It will happen very soon and will have disastrous aftermaths if the corrupt system is involved into cadastral matters and land registry operations. Is there an exit from the vicious circle of the total corruption? - we believe there is. And the exit is RESPONSIBILITY. If any allegation does not entail responsibility - for accused if allegations are true and for accusers if they are false - the system is already dead. So we call upon law enforcement agencies of Ukraine to start bringing to liability wrongdoers and liers - otherwise we shall prohibit the freedom of speech as soon as possible, because it is getting extremely unbearable to listen to the truth without seeing any results thereof.

  Center for Land Reform Policy in Ukraine, 2010

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