What’s It Like Blowing the Whistle in Ukraine?

January 16th, 2020 by Ashley Kenny

What Happened

On January 1, 2020, Amendments to the Law of Ukraine On Prevention of Corruption (“Amendments”) came into effect that introduced groundbreaking protections for whistleblowers in Ukraine that rival the protections offered under the United States False Claims Act (“FCA”).

The Motivation

Ukraine has suffered through a longstanding history of corruption. In the United States Agency of International Development’s 2019-2024 Country Development Cooperation Strategy for Ukraine, Ukraine was categorized as the most corrupt country in Europe. In attempt to change its global perception and become a member of the European Union, the Ukrainian government has implemented reforms targeted towards anti-corruption and transparency. The recent enactment of the Amendments is a significant step towards fighting the country’s deep-rooted corruption.

Who Can Be A Whistleblower in Ukraine?

According to the Amendments, a whistleblower is defined as an individual who reports possible acts of corruption, or corruption-related offenses, that the whistleblower has firsthand knowledge of through their professional, economic, social, scientific, professional or educational activities. To qualify as a whistleblower, the individual must present reliable information that is not publicly available that supports their report of corruption.

What Protections Can a Whistleblower Receive?

The Amendments permit the whistleblower to anonymously report acts of corruption and protect the whistleblower’s confidentiality. The Amendments also protect the whistleblower and the whistleblower’s family from retaliation of any kind including, but not limited to, physical violence, adverse employment actions, and civil and criminal liability. Under the Amendments, the whistleblower and the whistleblower’s family are entitled to free legal assistance, psychological aid, reimbursement of expenses, and reimbursement of legal fees. The Amendments also provide remuneration of up to 10% in cases where the damage to the state is more than ₴10 million Ukrainian Hryvnia, UAH (approximately $417,219.70 United States Dollar, USD). The percentage a whistleblower receives is largely based upon the importance of the whistleblower’s information.

How to Blow the Whistle in Ukraine

The Amendments do not prescribe a particular way in which the whistleblower must report acts of corruption. The whistleblower may choose to make their report to the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine, National Agency, and other specially authorized entities in the sphere of corruption via the agencies’ telephone number, website, or designated email address. The whistleblower may also report acts of corruption to their employer, trade unions, public organizations, governmental agencies, journalists, and the media.

All government agencies, state-owned businesses, and select private companies that participate in public procurement for contracts must implement internal reporting channels, assist employees with reporting, define internal procedures related to reporting and reviewing complaints, and introduce a culture of reporting possible corruption and related incentivizes.

The Take Away The Amendments have been compared by many to the FCA. While both laws provide vast protections and potential remuneration to the whistleblower, the potential award for the whistleblower under the FCA is 30% of the government’s recovery while the potential award under the Amendments is only 10%. Given Ukraine’s longstanding history of corruption, only time will tell if the protections and minimum monetary award offered under the Amendments will be enough to encourage Ukrainians to join the fight against corruption and blow the whistle.   

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