| KIEV, March 30
KIEV, March 30 The U.S. Agency for International
Development (USAID) will not engage in more projects with the
Ukrainian anti-corruption agency NAZK at this point but remains
open to future cooperation, the U.S. Embassy in Kiev said on
NAZK has been mired in controversy and blamed by the prime
minister this week for delays to a flagship scheme obliging
public officials and lawmakers to declare their assets in a
publicly searchable database by the start of April.
The row underscored the patchiness of Ukrainian efforts to
deliver on reforms promised to allies and the International
Monetary Fund as part of a $40 billion bailout for its economy,
which has been battered by conflict with pro-Russian
Adding fuel to the fire, NAZK's deputy head said on
Wednesday that USAID had suspended cooperation with the agency
to punish Kiev after lawmakers voted to amend a key piece of
anti-corruption legislation. NAZK's chief denied this.
In its first comments since then, the U.S. Embassy said
USAID currently supported one project with NAZK to do with party
political financing. There had been discussion of other
potential programmes, it said.
"We are not moving forward at this time, but the door
remains open to potential additional future cooperation," the
U.S. Embassy said in an emailed statement to Reuters, without
specifying why USAID was not proceeding with new programmes.
The initiative obliging officials to publish their wealth
was rolled out last year but has suffered repeated delays.
Activists say vested interests have tried to sabotage it.
Corruption is endemic in the ex-Soviet republic. Critics
says oligarchs control vast wealth, investors are routinely
ripped off, and public officials take bribes. The Economy
Ministry reckons around 35 percent of Ukrainian GDP runs in a
Nevertheless, the wealth declarations of leading politicians
and officials have stunned Ukrainians, as officials on modest
salaries listed millions of dollars in cash, expensive watches
or luxury cars.
But activists say a recent legislative amendment forcing
NGOs to declare their assets too would open them up to
intimidation from law enforcement agencies with a vested
interest in shutting down corruption investigations.
A group of G7 diplomats flagged their concern over the
amendment at a meeting with President Petro Poroshenko this
week. He promised to set up a working group on the issue.
Previously, USAID ended funding for a flagship customs
reform project in the southern Odessa region as plans to tackle
bribe-taking there petered out.
(Editing by Mark Trevelyan)