Ukraine approves bill to boost independence of anti-corruption bureau

FILE PHOTO: Officers of the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine stand next to plastic bags filled with seized U.S. Dollar banknotes in Kiev, Ukraine, in this handout picture released June 13, 2020. Press Service of the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine/Handout via REUTERS

KYIV (Reuters) - Ukraine's parliament on Tuesday passed legislation to strengthen the independence of the Western-backed national anti-corruption bureau (NABU), a requirement for Kyiv to secure more loans from the International Monetary Fund under a $5 billion loan deal.

The bill, which sets up a new mechanism for how NABU's leadership is appointed, must now be signed by President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to come into force.

NABU was set up in 2015 to fight corruption among senior Ukrainian officials and politicians and its independence from political meddling is closely scrutinised by Ukraine's foreign backers and local anti-corruption activists.

Matti Maasikas, the European Union's ambassador to Ukraine, welcomed "a positive step on Ukraine's anti-corruption reform agenda". He said the EU was "ready to support a transparent, merit-based selection process for a new NABU director".

In its 2020 Corruption Perception Index, Transparency International ranked Ukraine 117th out of 180 countries globally, giving it 33 out of a maximum of 100 points where zero indicates that "corruption effectively replaces the government".

The bill passed a day after Ukraine secured a provisional agreement with the IMF that could pave the way for a $700 million loan disbursement. It carried with support from 304 lawmakers in the 450-seat parliament.

The new law would set up a commission consisting of three government delegates and three others put forward by international donors to select two candidates to lead NABU. The government would then be obliged to appoint one of them.

"Independent experts will work in the selection commission and they will have a decisive influence on the decision on nominees for the post of the head of NABU," the head of the parliament's anti-corruption committee, Anastasia Radina, said before the vote.

The government would also be explicitly prohibited from interfering with the work of NABU or overturning its decisions, she added.

(Reporting by Natalia Zinets; Editing by Matthias Williams and Angus MacSwan)

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