Researcher Anna Zubenko writes about why the Kyrgyz police needs to declassify information about themselves in order to fight corruption within the institution, in her article for CABAR.asia.
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The data on the planned budget, expenditures, financing and staffing of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Kyrgyz Republic are classified. Such a “secret” is a relic of the past, which limits the possibilities of civil control and does not correspond to the principles of openness and transparency of public administration. However, the key issue that needs to be addressed is the systemic corruption within the institution, which is exacerbated by the excessive secrecy of information.
World practice shows that the key to successful combat against systemic corruption in government agencies is – to ensure openness, transparency of their work and accountability to the population. Compliance with these conditions is not only an internal limitation of manifestations of corruption, but also opens up wide opportunities for ensuring civil control by the population and civil society organizations.
There have been positive shifts in certain areas of public administration on issues of ensuring openness in Kyrgyzstan. This is not only about public procurement, which is carried out through a specialized electronic portal, but also about the publication of data on budget implementation. The Ministry of Finance launched the Open Budget service, which allows to track expenses, revenues, information on incentive grants and other information about the budget.
However, data are not published for all structures. In this vein, in the database of the Ministry of Finance there are no classified data on the State Committee for National Security of the Kyrgyz Republic (SCNS), the State Border Service of the Kyrgyz Republic (SBS), the State Committee for Defense Affairs of the Kyrgyz Republic (SCDA), as well as on the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Kyrgyz Republic (MIA).
Information about the staffing level, the amount of appropriations and the actual expenditure of funds for these four structures is a state secret, and their disclosure can cause “extremely serious damage to the national interests of the Kyrgyz Republic”. However, even considering the specifics of the activities of these bodies, such secrecy is not justified for all of them.
The secrecy of data on the Ministry of Internal Affairs is questionable both from the point of view of approaches in world practice, and from the point of view of national legislation, which prohibits the classification of data on the state of affairs in ensuring law and order. This practice is a relic of the Soviet security system, when socially significant information was withheld from citizens. At present, this level of secrecy only creates conditions for the flourishing of systemic corruption in the Ministry of Internal Affairs, but in no way can affect the national interests of the Kyrgyz Republic.
The risks of misuse of funds, embezzlement and other corrupt practices are hidden behind the cover of secrecy. The risks apply not only to the state budget funds, but also to grant assistance, which has been provided to the ministry for more than twenty years as part of the reform. These are huge amounts, the exact use of which cannot be tracked.
Without the declassification of financial and some other data on the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the fight against systemic corruption within the institution will not be effective. Openness of data should become the main condition for anti-corruption reforms in the Ministry of Internal Affairs.
In society, the internal affairs bodies are considered one of the most corrupt structures of the state. At the same time, external actors have no opportunity to either confirm or deny this statement – most of the data is secret, which makes it impossible to conduct independent analysis or investigations. Some of the data is indeed classified under the law (for example, in terms of the budget), but in some cases, officials and decision-makers refer to secrecy when they do not want to provide data (for example, on crime statistics).
Data on the number of staff, on the amount of appropriations and actual expenditures of funds of the Ministry of Internal Affairs are classified as “top secret” according to the Resolution of the Government of the Kyrgyz Republic of 1995 No. 267/9 “On approval of the List of the main information constituting a state secret and the Regulation on the procedure for establishing the degree of secrecy categories of information and determining the degree of secrecy of information contained in works, documents and products. ” However, the List itself was classified as “top secret” until June 2015.
According to Article 8 of the Law “On Protection of State Secrets of the Kyrgyz Republic”, the classification of information as state secrets should be based on the principles of legality, justification, and timeliness. Justification in this law means “determination of the advisability of classifying by expert assessment in the interests of the state and citizens.” There is no publicly available information on the expert assessment of the advisability of classifying data on the Ministry of Internal Affairs. This casts doubt on the need to maintain the secrecy of this data.
According to Article 11 of the Law “On the Protection of State Secrets of the Kyrgyz Republic”, information on the maintenance of law and order is not subject to classification. Information about facts infringing on the rights and legitimate interests of citizens, as well as creating a threat to their personal safety, should not be secret either. Since the functions of the Ministry of Internal Affairs directly include ensuring public order, security of the individual and society, data on the activities of the Ministry should be more open to citizens both in terms of funding and in terms of statistics on the situation with crime.
Of course, there is information that in no case should be disclosed – this is the personal data of employees, data related to the secrecy of the investigation, as well as data on those units that conduct secret activities. That is, the information which can seriously affect the implementation of activities by employees of the Ministry of Internal Affairs. Other data, such as the number of staff, i.e. the total number of employees, structure, budget and external grant funding should be open, as in most democratic countries, since they relate to internal issues and cannot affect the violation of the national interests of Kyrgyzstan.
Why over-classification is bad?
Excessive secrecy leads to a number of negative consequences. The lack of civilian control leads to a feeling of impunity and permissiveness, since the misappropriation of budget funds, as well as the theft of these funds, occur unnoticed. At the same time, the existing internal control mechanisms, including the audit of the Accounting Chamber, cannot fully identify corruption schemes, since a close connection is established between the auditors and the audited.
Since any data on the budget and financing of the Ministry of Internal Affairs is a secret, it is impossible to calculate the resources required for police reform. It is also difficult to track the effectiveness of the use of grant aid. For more than twenty years, various international organizations have been assisting in reforming the Ministry of Internal Affairs, but the institution continues to refer to the lack of funds for reforms. Due to the lack of public financial reporting by the Ministry of Internal Affairs, it is not known how the funds provided are used.
For example, the Register of International Grant and Technical Assistance Projects on the website of the Ministry of Economy reflects material and technical assistance in the amount of more than 720 million KGS received in 2019 by the Ministry of Internal Affairs. We are talking about the allocation of transport, computer equipment and office equipment. However, there is no information on the website of the Ministry of Internal Affairs about which units received this assistance and whether these units really needed this assistance. Civil society organizations that monitor the work of the police emphasize that this kind of assistance rarely reaches grassroots units, such as district commissioners and inspectors for minors in need of transport, computers and office equipment, while the central office of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and regional units are more or less facilitated.
Another bottleneck is related to procurement. In April 2020, it became known that, as part of creating Department of the Patrol Police Service in Bishkek, the purchase of electric stunning devices for employees was carried out at inflated prices. 400 electric stunning devices were purchased at the amount of 5,600 KGS per unit. However, the market price of the same electric stunning devices is 600 KGS. Thus, the damage to the budget amounted to 2 million KGS. This is just one example of such purchases, which became known to the public only because of the close attention of civil society to the project of creating a patrol police.
Since the information about the budget, and about expenses, and about the staffing of the Ministry of Internal Affairs is classified, it is almost impossible to calculate the staff optimization for a fair distribution of wages. From provided to journalists data on the salaries of employees of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, it became known that in 2020, after a significant increase, the average salary of the head of the central office of the Ministry of Internal Affairs is 42 thousand KGS, and an ordinary policeman receives18.5 thousand KGS. At the same time, in the most corrupt service – the Main Directorate of Road Traffic Safety (GUOBDD/MDRTS) – the junior staff receives 16 thousand KGS. It is also impossible to substantiate such a difference in wages since an independent functional analysis of the Ministry of Internal Affairs departments cannot be carried out without access to classified data.
In the past, there were also known facts of the presence of “phantom workers” in some units of the Ministry of Internal Affairs. So, in 2014, in one of the territorial divisions of the internal affairs bodies in Bishkek, theft in the amount of almost a 1 million KGS was revealed. The responsible persons of this department recruited “phantom workers” and received wages for them throughout the year.
The secrecy of information about the pay of police officers also limits the rights of the officers themselves, most of whom are not aware of the procedure and amount of remuneration for their work. This is stated in the Special Report of the Akyikatchy (Ombudsman) of the Kyrgyz Republic on the state of social and legal protection of employees of the internal affairs bodies of the Kyrgyz Republic for 2017. The report indicates that part of the regulatory framework for ensuring social guarantees for police officers is in secret, such as the Resolution of the Government of the Kyrgyz Republic No. 513 of September 1, 2014 “On approval of monetary allowances for common police worker and commanding officers of law enforcement agencies of the Kyrgyz Republic.”
An example of data openness: Ministry of Internal Affairs of Ukraine
Despite the fact that the structure of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Ukraine differs from the structure of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Kyrgyzstan, the experience of Ukraine is considered as the closest to the situation in our country. Unlike the Georgian reform, which was almost completely supported by donors, the Ukrainian reform was more dependent on the domestic budget than the Georgian one, although it was partially based on international assistance. Considering that the reform process in Ukraine is not completed, as in Kyrgyzstan, and the timing of reforms is relatively the same, this comparison is more appropriate.
The study of data on the Ukrainian police showed a greater openness of data than in Kyrgyzstan. On the website of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Ukraine, almost all the data that are classified in our country are published – budget, number of workers, structure, and other data, and even tax declarations of the management team. In Kyrgyzstan, the declarations of the top leadership of the Ministry of Internal Affairs are classified as well.
The number of police officers who are supported by the state budget, as of January 1, 2020, amounted to 118.5 thousand people. In 2020, 83 billion 826 million 785 thousand hryvnias or almost 3 billion US dollars were provided for financing the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Ukraine.
The website of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Ukraine published annual procurement plans, data on the implementation of budget programs and international assistance programs. A separate section of the website is devoted to financial reporting. Internal audit results are also published. Public procurement is carried out through an electronic portal, centralized data on all tenders can be found by clicking on the link on the website of the Ministry of Internal Affairs.
The National Police of Ukraine has its own website, the same as the other structures within the Ministry of Internal Affairs. It also contains information on the number, budget issues, results, and audit plans. The reports of the chief on the results of the work of the National Police, as well as the results of sociological surveys on the activities of the police, are posted. The website of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Kyrgyzstan in this regard is less informative, although it regularly publishes news about the work of the ministry.Screenshot from the website of the Ukrainian police.
The section “Preventing corruption” contains the contact information of the anti-corruption units of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Ukraine, as well as those authorized for anti-corruption activities. In the same section, as on the main page of the site, anyone can report corruption in the police or other bodies. A separate questionnaire on corruption risks is posted. Every quarter, a report on the situation with combating corruption is published on the website of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Ukraine.
The National Police of Ukraine has created a Department for the Prevention of Corruption and Lustration, which is responsible for the implementation of legislation in the field of combating corruption.
Comparative analysis shows that with all the shortcomings and criticism of the police reform in Ukraine, access to information on police activities is provided at a level due to civilian control. Considering also the anti-corruption activity of the institution itself, the experience of Ukraine can be considered as a case for the use of individual tools to ensure the openness of data on the Ministry of Internal Affairs in Kyrgyzstan.
To hide or to declassify?
In September 2020, a new state strategy on combating corruption and eliminating its causes in the Kyrgyz Republic for 2021-2024 was approved. In terms of implementing this strategy, one of the tasks is to increase the role of the civil sector and the business community in combating corruption in the public administration system with the introduction of the institution of public control. This task implies the creation of an open system of financial reporting of state bodies and local self-government bodies with a transparent reflection of the expenditure of financial resources in accounting reports and with open access of the population to the departmental websites of these bodies.
In the context of the activities of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, considering the above-mentioned examples and problems, this task should become one of the main activities in terms of dismantling systemic corruption. Examples of foreign countries, and the example of Ukraine considered in this case, show that declassification of information about the staffing, budget, financing, and expenses of the Ministry of Internal Affairs did not negatively affect the observance of the country’s national interests. Consequently, the removal of the classification of secrecy from these data in Kyrgyzstan is also possible but depends on the political will of the country’s leadership and the ministry itself.
It is also worth noting that data on the staffing and wages of employees of individual departments of the Ministry of Internal Affairs are already in the public domain. Thus, the mass media openly publishes information about the number of employees of the Department of the Patrol Police Service in the city of Bishkek and data on their remuneration. The openness of this data is primarily due to the fact that this unit was created with the active participation of civil society and all processes were more open than during the previous reforms.
Practice shows that even in the presence of direct tasks related to increasing the openness of the activities of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the institution seeks to maintain the status quo. So, in 2016, the Security Council (at that time, the Defense Council) adopted a Complex of Measures to Reform Law Enforcement Agencies, which outlined major changes not only in the activities, but also in the structure of the Ministry of Internal Affairs. The Ministry of Internal Affairs was tasked with increasing the level of openness and accessibility for public control. The need to establish compliance of the budgetary process of law enforcement agencies with the principles of reality, feasibility, and maximum openness, while improving the audit mechanisms and monitoring the spending of budget funds, was also indicated. Thus, the declassification of data on the Ministry of Internal Affairs was directly related to the task at hand but was not carried out.
In the current situation, a repetition of such an outcome of events is possible. However, it would be more appropriate to adopt a different policy related to the disclosure of some information about the Ministry of Internal Affairs. Information related to the secrecy of the investigation, personal data of employees, as well as data on those units that conduct secret activities should remain secret.
The declassification of data on the staffing, structure, budget, expenditures, and financing of the Ministry of Internal Affairs will make a significant contribution to the fight against systemic corruption in the internal affairs bodies. In particular, this will allow:
- increase the transparency of budgetary processes, implementation of grant agreements and reduce corruption risks in the Ministry of Internal Affairs.
- ensure civil control over the activities of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the spending of both budgetary and grant funds.
- to conduct an independent functional analysis of the ATM system in order to optimize costs and allocate human resources.
- accurately calculate the costs necessary for a full-fledged law enforcement reform based on an independent functional analysis.
- protect the social and labor rights of employees, which will also reduce corruption risks.
- increase the level of trust in law enforcement agencies by ensuring the transparency of their activities.
In order to achieve the above-mentioned results, it is necessary:
For the Government of the Kyrgyz Republic to:
- conduct an independent expert assessment of the feasibility of classifying data on the staffing, budget, expenses, and financing of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, by taking into account the interests of the state and citizens, as well as considering international practice.
- revise the List of the main information constituting a state secret and exclude from it- data on the Ministry of Internal Affairs.
- conduct an independent financial and functional audit in order to optimize staffing levels and more efficiently allocate resources, both financial and human.
- strengthen the internal audit and internal investigation services of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and give them a sufficient degree of independence to identify and investigate corruption schemes within the Ministry.
For the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Kyrgyz Republic to:
- regularly publish data on the results of internal audit on the departmental website.
- post financial and program reports on their activities on the departmental website, including information on the receipt and distribution of grant aid, as well as declarations of the top management of the Ministry of Internal Affairs on income and expenses.
- increase the transparency of public procurement by conducting them exclusively through the electronic public procurement portal.
For the International organizations to:
- introduce the practice of refusing further financing or reducing the financing of the Ministry of Internal Affairs in case of revealing the facts of misuse of funds provided to the Ministry.
- while providing material and technical assistance to the ministry, take into account the results of the audit and the validity of the need for such assistance to a specific unit in order to ensure a more efficient distribution of resources within the Ministry of Internal Affairs and equal provision of all units.
This material has been prepared as part of the Giving Voice, Driving Change – from the Borderland to the Steppes Project. The opinions expressed in the article do not reflect the position of the editorial board or donor.
 The list of the main information constituting a state secret, approved by the Resolution of the Government of the Kyrgyz Republic of 1995 No.
 Clause 3 of Art. 11 of the Law “On Protection of State Secrets of the Kyrgyz Republic”
 Decree of the Government of June 16, 2015 No. 365 “On the removal of the stamps” Top secret “and” Secret “from some decrees of the Government of the Kyrgyz Republic”
 Monitoring the DIA reform in the Kyrgyz Republic. Reform navigator. 2014