PARIS — Ukraine, one of Canada's top target countries for foreign aid, hasn't done enough to battle endemic corruption, according to a report made public here Thursday.
"Ukraine has made little progress in tackling corruption over the past four years, despite regular pledges from the country's leaders to take action," said the Paris-based Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, an economic and social policy research agency funded by Canada and 33 other western democratic countries.
And the OECD analysis said foreign aid programs directed at reducing the country's tainted system of government have largely failed.
"International partners have also confirmed that several large anti-corruption programs supported by donors and international organizations during several past years did not produce many practical results," said the report, which didn't identify those partners.
"Donors are therefore looking for the confirmation of political will of the Ukrainian leadership to fight corruption in order to consider any further support."
The OECD urged Ukraine to pass long-promised anti-corruption legislation, establish an anti-corruption investigative body, pass laws relating to integrity and conflict issues within the civil service, and review a political party financing regime that currently lets politically-powerful billionaire oligarchs fund — and influence — top politicians.
The criticism is directed both at the new regime headed by President Viktor Yanukovych, elected in early 2010, as well as former president and 2004 Orange Revolution hero Viktor Yushchenko, who was treated as a hero when he addressed Parliament in 2008 at the invitation of Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
Yushchenko later told a news conference after that address that corruption was a problem in his country, which he blamed on the "heavy heritage" of Soviet rule before Ukraine achieved independence in 1991.
"You should not have any doubts that it could threaten our democratic force," he said, vowing to do "everything possible" to contain such threats.
But the OECD report points out that a 2006 legislative package, drafted in response to years of complaints about widespread graft, still hasn't been passed into law.
"It is not doubted that the political elite recognize the pressing need to address the corruption problem in the country," the report said.
"The real political will to fight corruption — in contrast with political declarations and media statements — however, remains to be tested. For the moment, the demonstrated political will has yet to translate into sustainable progress and observable results."
Ukraine's failings have made it tough for foreign investors to operate in a country of 45 million people.
"General lack of legal certainty is the fundamental challenge for doing business in Ukraine. One of the business representatives interviewed during the on-site visit stated that companies in Ukraine had to accept corruption, or they were out of business," according to the OECD.
In 2009 Canada made Ukraine the only European country among 20 nations or regions on a foreign aid priority list. Canadian aid totalled $21.3 million in 2008-2009, making it the country's fourth-largest bilateral aid donor.
The Canadian International Development Agency says one of its priorities is to give "increased attention to judicial and civil service reforms and local governance, as well as commercial and other courts involved in resolving commercial and business-related matters."
Among the CIDA-funded projects is a $5.6 million initiative that started in 2008, and ends in 2014, and is intended to help Ukraine follow through on its commitment to enact a national anti-corruption strategy.