KYIV - Ukrainian efforts to stamp out tax evasion and corruption among public officials in line with commitments to the IMF hit a setback Monday when a new online income declaration system flopped at launch.
Under the new system, some 50,000 senior civil servants will initially have to declare all their earnings and list property and other assets electronically — an attempt to root out entrenched corruption in state institutions.
In theory, the new system would make the revenue and property holdings of officials, such as villas, open to scrutiny online.
The IMF, whose credit programs are vitally needed to support Ukraine's debt-laden economy, has been delaying disbursement of $17.5 billion until Ukraine cleans up its act.
But when launch moment arrived, it was announced that the system had failed to get security certification from Ukraine's communications oversight body, indicating it was flawed.
"The electronic declaration system worked today, but sadly so far only in a testing mode," Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman said, promising it would be launched in full as soon as possible.
Anti-corruption watchdogs were quick to point out that officials could register any figures they liked with impunity in the new system since it had no valid status until it had been certified.
This "effectively allows further illegal lies in declarations from officials," the head of Transparency International Ukraine, Yaroslav Yurchishin, was quoted as saying in a statement.
Ukraine's hopes for a visa-free regime with the European Union also hinge on the success of its efforts to eliminate graft.