Opinion: Geocadastre needs to be cleaned of corruption

Roman Leschenko*

Many people struggled desperately to head Geocadastre. Not I. For many years, I had been teaching in the University and running the family business – the private farm in Cherkaska oblast. It happened that last year I was asked to join Volodymyr Zelensky’s team as the Land Commissioner for the President of Ukraine. Knowing how important land is for common people and local communities, and how much was stolen or mismanaged by bureaucrats, I could not refuse.

I travelled all over the country to meet the farmers and local communities. Everywhere I went, I heard just how widespread land related corruption was and how it has sapped the energy and dynamism of small and medium farmers all over Ukraine, preventing them from investing, accessing credit, and harnessing the potential of the land. I realized that, without transforming the state institutions responsible, the historic land reforms already put in place by President Zelensky would not help farmers.

So, I took a new challenge, heading one of the most corrupt state bodies – Geocadastre. I know what a massive task this will be. But again, this task has to be completed if we want our children to live in a country with thriving and attractive rather than desolate rural villages and towns. And failure is not an option.

The mission of this body, as I see it, is to help the country manage its farmland and unique natural resources, provide the basis for planning and revenue collection by local government, help the private sector thrive, especially in agriculture, and above all for citizens to have secure rights to their land and easily access to quality services.

Due to the cancer of corruption, Geocadastre failed its mission in the previous years. At the same time its services are needed now more than ever to help the country quickly overcome the negative effects of the crisis. In fact transforming Geocadastre into a corruption-free premier provider of geo-spatial information unleashes huge opportunities for all of us.

Therefore, the first thing tomorrow morning is to start fighting the public land theft, which is the treasure of us all. Staff who are clean and honest have nothing to fear but any evidence of illegal or inappropriate behavior will be persecuted swiftly.

The second priority is to make every possible effort to get the necessary legislation that transfers state land to local bodies, allows us to use streamlined and fully electronic processes for land management as well as auctions, and to put in place avenues for famers to come out of the shadows and get access to bank credit and state support without the fear of being taxed.

To perform our mission, we will need support from the other parts of Government as well as civil society, the private sector and our international partners to help us expose corruption at every level and deal with it through appropriate channels while at the same time clearly focusing on the technical challenges ahead and equipping our staff to honestly and proudly serve the country through technical excellence.

I am confident that with everybody’s support we will be able to make progress and eventually complete this historic President’s task: to make Ukraine the leader of the agricultural sector, and Ukrainians – the real owners of our God-given land.

*Head of The State Service of Ukraine for Geodesy, Cartography and Cadastre, since June 11, 2020

Source: Interfax Ukraine