Defense Expenditures: (Lack of) Publicity Crisis

In the light of: 1) the new Law on National Security; 2) the prospects for obtaining a NATO Membership Action Plan in 2024 and 3) implementation of the implementation provisions of the Association Agreement with the EU - the whole very conservative security and defence sector will face a stressful phenomenon called publicity.

First of all, we are talking about the publicity of taxpayers’ money, which constitute the budget of the Ministry of Defence.
The requirement of a transparent defence budget means transparency in defence procurement expenditures. Or, in order to distinguish them from those supplies purchases that are already being carried out publicly, it will be about the procurement of goods, works and services (of military equipment and dual-use items).

The crisis will be that publicity is by no means the signature line of defence and security agencies. Our historical legacy is the antithesis of Western principles of quality management in this sector. We hear: “Justify the disclosure!” instead of “Justify the blackout!”.

The key to solving the problem in the legislative field lies with the Security Service of Ukraine. After all, no expert on state secrets, which determines the degree of secrecy of information ("Special Importance", "Top Secret" or "Secret"), does not risk to disclose information about the procurement of weapons and military equipment. Because it may lead to many years in prison.

Now we have a law “On State Secret”, written in 1994. No matter how many amendments it has undergone, spiritually it is still more about an “inviolable union”, instead of Ukraine, which moves to NATO and/or the EU. 

The provisions of the law are set out in such a way that they allow to blackout everything related to the activities of the Ukrainian Armed Forces in one blow. Even those purchases of property, food or fuel, which are now being carried out in public, can be interpreted as secret from the point of view of this document

According to this law, it is impossible to properly distinguish the information that really needs to be protected from the information that does not require secrecy, even “on the totality of data”, as one likes to say about the grounds of secrecy.

This distinction is the key one for making purchases of weapons and military equipment legally regulated, transparent and competitive for the selection of contractors using the “Prozorro” electronic public procurement system. 

By: Artur Pereverziev, defence procurement reform coordinator in the Reforms Project Office of the Ministry of Defence of Ukraine.