Oleh Polishchuk, the former head of the Directorate for the Prevention and Combating of Corruption of the State Enterprise NNEGC Energoatom, talks about how the company is working now, about the judicial prospects of his dismissal and the relationship with the acting president. President Petro Kotin.
Wait for the publication of the second part of the interview after a few days.
- Oleh Vasilyevich, the other day you left Energoatom from the position of director for prevention and combating corruption. Please tell us what you did in this position?
The Directorate for the Prevention and Combating of Corruption, which I headed, was created by Yuri Nedashkovsky, President of the State Enterprise NNEGC Energoatom, in December 2014. Then the anti-corruption unit appeared not only in Energoatom but also in other state and municipal enterprises. Simultaneously with the adoption of the Law of Ukraine "On the Prevention of Corruption", NABU, SAP, NAPK began to operate in the state.
The main task of our service was to introduce an effective anti-corruption system aimed at preventing and detecting corruption, creating the necessary mechanisms for the effective implementation of the Law of Ukraine "On the prevention of corruption".
As for the statement “you left office”, it is incorrect. Correctly, "I'm gone." I was dismissed by the administration of the State Enterprise NNEGC Energoatom based on clause 3, part 1 of Art. 40 of the Labor Code. The reason was, as indicated in the order of dismissal, systematic failure to fulfil official duties following the job description. In my opinion, this is a classic and, unfortunately, not an isolated example of the dismissal of an active anti-corruption officer for his activities at an enterprise - the order completely contradicts the Law of Ukraine "On Prevention of Corruption", the Anti-Corruption Program and the Charter of the State Enterprise NNEGC Energoatom.
The fact is that in 2015, as the Director for Prevention and Combating Corruption – Adviser to the President of NNEGC, I was appointed the Authorized Person for the Implementation of the Anti-Corruption Program. This position is legislatively institutional, that is, it must necessarily be at any state enterprise where there is an Anti-Corruption Program. The legal status of the Commissioner is determined by Art. 64 of the Law of Ukraine "On Prevention of Corruption". The basis of the legal status is to ensure independent activities because the Ombudsman exercises control over the implementation of the Anti-Corruption Program by the management of the enterprise. In fact, the Ombudsman has supervisory functions in relation to the first person.
The guarantees of the independent activity of the UL provide for a special procedure for dismissal if it occurs at the initiative of the owner or an authorized body. In particular, the head of the enterprise is obliged to coordinate the dismissal of the Commissioner with the NAPK.
I was fired precisely on the initiative of the authorized body - the company's management. Therefore, according to the law, the acting. Petro Kotin, President of the State Enterprise NNEGC Energoatom, was supposed to send a presentation and obtain the consent of NAPK for my dismissal. Besides, following the Anti-Corruption Program of Energoatom and its Charter, to dismiss the Commissioner, the consent of the Ministry of Energy must also be obtained. However, I was fired without the approval of the Ministry of Energy and NAPK.
I associate my dismissal exclusively with my activities as Commissioner: documenting the probable corruption actions of Kotin and his team and sending materials to law enforcement agencies.
By the way, when I was fired, the norms of the law were also violated, which guarantee legal protection of the rights of the accuser. In the understanding of the Law of Ukraine "On the Prevention of Corruption" I am a whistleblower since I reported to law enforcement agencies about possible corruption in the top management of the State Enterprise NNEGC Energoatom. Therefore, I believe that Kotin, having fired me, not only grossly violated the Law of Ukraine "On the Prevention of Corruption", but also committed a criminal offense, the composition of which is provided for in Art. 172 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine - the law defines the deliberate dismissal of the accuser because of his accusatory activity as a criminal offense.
- The role of a compliance officer assumes that his voice has an impact on the leadership of the organization and the members of the strategy team. How was this point carried out at Energoatom?
Before coming to the position of acting President Kotin in April 2020, my position was indeed influential. I was involved in making many key decisions, I had the right to sign myself and be independent. I was supported by the previous leaders of the State Enterprise NNEGC Energoatom. It was during those periods that Energoatom became the most transparent among state-owned enterprises, had the best anti-corruption program, and cooperation with law enforcement agencies was at a high level. We have developed many procedures that have created an effective anti-corruption compliance system in the company.
Everything changed with the arrival of new acting. the president and his team, primarily vice-presidents Herman Halushchenko and Hartmut Yakob. Li not from the first days, the new team caused legal chaos in the company. The persecution of employees began who had their own opinions and principles, were not afraid and did not agree with the illegal decisions of the company's management. I am one of those who always have their own position and adhere to it. For me, the compliance policy is not an empty phrase, and the Anti-Corruption Program is not a document to be, but a working procedure, which after the Charter of the Company is the second in the hierarchy of internal documents and which must be implemented by all employees of the Company without exception, but first of all by its leaders.
Two months after he took office, Kotin invited me to resign of my own free will. According to him, I exceeded my authority when I gave legal assessments to the drafts of organizational and administrative documents.
- That is why you wrote in your Facebook note about the existence in Energoatom of an "organized group under the formal leadership of Kotin"?
I know Kotin very well, even when he was a specialist in the Directorate of Energoatom. People have always had a negative attitude towards anti-corruption legislation. In 2017, he was one of five officials of the Energoatom Directorate who refused to submit electronic declarations. Later, Kotin was among 100 people who wrote a complaint against me to Nedashkovsky, President of the State Enterprise NNEGC Energoatom, and asked him to change the number of declarants in the company. But the complaint was not satisfied.
When Kotin was appointed acting. President of the State Enterprise NNEGC Energoatom, I had a conversation with him, which I myself initiated. I asked how he sees the work of my service, whether he supports this direction, whether he is ready to demonstrate leadership in combating corruption. He expressed support for the activities of the Directorate headed by me.
In early July 2020, acting President invited me to write a letter of resignation. But I, having legal protection, refused to do it.
Regarding the organized grouping, I cannot name this phenomenon otherwise. In Energoatom there is a so-called “conceptual” control mode: when one is written on paper, but in reality, something else happens. Distorted reality.
- You also wrote on Facebook that if it hadn't been for the law, you would have "taken off back in June." Why exactly then?
This happened at the end of June after one of the scandals that concerned changes to the Charter. I learned that amendments are proposed to the Energoatom charter, where it was proposed to remove the personal responsibility of the President of the Company for the implementation of the Law of Ukraine "On the Prevention of Corruption". I told Kotin in his office that it was wrong. This approach contradicts the Company's Anti-Corruption Program, according to which the president, on the contrary, must demonstrate leadership in the fight against corruption. But this only angered Kotin.
On July 2, I had another conversation in Kotin's office. He began to explain to me his vision of managerial subordination between me as the Commissioner and him as a leader. Petro Borisovich really does not like it if someone questions or criticizes his decisions. He believes that if he, as a manager, made some managerial decision, then all Energoatom employees must unconditionally comply with this decision. I objected to this, again explained to him that following the Anti-Corruption Program of Energoatom, I, as an Authorized Person, must monitor the head of the Company for its implementation.
At the end of the conversation, Petro Kotin suggested that I write a letter of resignation of my own free will. I suggested that he return to this issue after Kotin ceases to be acting. and will become the President of the Company, not its temporary head.
Literally three hours after I left Kotin's office, I was unlawfully removed from my official duties, having fabricated an official investigation. A biased investigation began, the purpose of which is to incriminate me with something and apply negative measures of influence under any circumstances. People call this "push-up".
- What was the "push-up"?
The first thing they did was "sewed with white thread" the official investigation report. Moreover, during the entire official investigation, no explanations were taken from me, that is, there is no objectivity, completeness and comprehensiveness of the investigation.
- And what have you been charged with?
Violation of 52 points of my job description. These are all the points that are in the job description and which are included in my responsibilities. As you know, the paper will endure everything. They wrote something and reprimanded me, deprived me of my salary supplement, and deprived me of my compensation for 2020 (the so-called 13 salary). The order to impose a disciplinary sanction on me while I am challenging in court and I have high hopes that the court will overturn this order as illegal and biased.
- And then what happened?
On September 21, Energoatom's Confidence Box received a message that Kotin had committed a corruption offense. The plot of the case is as follows: acting. President Kotin illegally paid the premium for the second quarter of 2020 to Vice Presidents Halushchenko and Yakob in the total amount of about UAH 530 thousand, and the Vice Presidents, accordingly, illegally received this amount of funds, which they publicly declared, having submitted in August reports of significant changes in property status (this will be discussed in detail in the second part of the interview with Oleh Polishchuk – ed.).
According to the Anti-Corruption Program, I started checking this fact.
But already on September 28, they brought me an order signed by Kotin about sending me on a business trip to the Khmelnytsky NPP for 30 days to assess corruption risks. This order was illegal - from the procedure of its formation to the subject of the task. According to our anti-corruption program, the assessment of corruption risks is carried out by a commission. The President of NNEGC approves the composition of the commission from all interested representatives of the Energoatom services, and we assess corruption risks. I am the Chairman of the Commission for Assessment of Corruption Risks, as the Commissioner.
And here they send me alone. And here I am - an expert on anti-corruption legislation, knowing about the illegality of the order on my business trip, I will come to the station, I will do there for some unknown reason and spend Energoatom's funds. I addressed in writing to Kotin, where I outlined my vision of the legality of my business trip. According to Art. 44 of the Law of Ukraine "On Prevention of Corruption" I am obliged to refrain from fulfilling illegal decisions or orders. According to the Anti-Corruption Program, the manager is obliged to immediately consider my requests and proposals. But there was no reaction to this.
Of course, I refrained from carrying out the illegal order, for which I received a second reprimand. They were not even stopped by the fact that at that moment I was on sick leave. That is, knowing that I am on sick leave, that the order on my business trip contradicts the Law of Ukraine "On the Prevention of Corruption" and the Anti-Corruption Program, in violation of the procedure according to which I had to demand personal written explanations about the reasons for the failure to comply with the business trip order, Kotin signed the reprimand order that was sent to me by mail. I also appealed against this order in court. The hearing will take place this month.
Then we already lived in parallel realities. I did my job following the job description and anti-corruption program, that is, I documented the illegal actions of the top management of Energoatom and sent the materials to law enforcement agencies to register criminal proceedings that are now being investigated.
Kotin and his team did everything to limit and restrict me. As an official of Energoatom, the right to sign was taken away from me, the office was forbidden to register outgoing letters with my signature, they refused to issue me a new power of attorney due to the expiration of the old one. Also, Kotin and his team blocked the assessment of corruption risks of the commission under my chairmanship. Today, in violation of Art. 61 of the Law of Ukraine "On Prevention of Corruption", Energoatom did not conduct an internal regular assessment of corruption risks in 2020. I informed NAPK about this fact, which is now checking my appeal.
Realizing and feeling that restrictive measures against me are not effective, Kotin and his team went even further. In early October, Kotin reorganized the organizational structure of the management. And my unit - the Directorate for the Prevention and Combating of Corruption - was liquidated. But they introduced the position of “anti-corruption commissioner” with a specialist's salary, that is, now Energoatom will have 1 full-time specialist per 36 thousand employees to counteract corruption.
But, despite the change in the structure, according to the current legislation, the Anti-Corruption Program and the Charter of Energoatom, Kotin had to coordinate my reduction with the NAPK and the Ministry of Energy of Ukraine (as with the authorized governing body). But for 3 months nobody did anything. I continued to document the illegal actions of Kotin and his team, in which I saw signs of criminal offenses. He made statements about crimes and sent them to law enforcement agencies. Mostly at NABU. I reported this to Kotin. In the end, it seems that Petro Borisovich's nerves broke down and he gave the command to commit obviously illegal actions related to my dismissal.
I did not think that they would risk firing me without obtaining consent from the NAPK and the Ministry of Energy. Back in the summer, when I was on sick leave and was unlawfully dismissed from the office, Kotin twice sent a submission to the NAPK about my dismissal and was twice refused.
But on January 26, I was invited to the office of the executive director for personnel, Oleg Boyarintsev, who, in the presence of a commission of three people, acquainted me with the order of dismissal. I got acquainted, wrote comments, they immediately gave me a workbook, made a calculation.
The order to dismiss Oleh Polishchuk. Photo: Oleh Polishchuk
- What do you think will happen next?
Immediately after my dismissal, on January 27, I sent a complaint to the NAPK about the violation by Petro Kotin of the Law of Ukraine "On the Prevention of Corruption" during my dismissal. The NAPK is now checking in two directions: violation of the procedure for dismissing the authorized person and violation of the guarantee of the accuser's labour rights.
Besides, I sent a statement about the commission of a criminal offense by Peter Kotin, the composition of which is provided for in Part 1 of Art. 172 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine (“Illegal dismissal of an employee from work for personal reasons or in connection with the report by him as an accuser of another person committing a corruption or corruption-related offense, other violations of the Law of Ukraine“ On Preventing Corruption ”). On January 29, one of the units of the National Police of Ukraine, at my request, entered information about a criminal offense in the Unified Register of Pre-trial Investigations.
Extract from ERDR on registration of criminal proceedings in relation to the illegal dismissal of Oleh Polishchuk. Photo: Oleh Polishchuk
Probably in any other country such a simple case would be investigated very quickly. But in Ukraine, corruption-vertical interventions greatly impede an objective investigation. However, I not only do not lose hope, but also show an active position, and therefore I believe that I will bring the criminal case to a procedural fair end and the guilty persons will bear responsibility determined by law.
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