A timing of local election holding will be soon announced in Ukraine, and we think it would be appropriate to start a series of materials on this topic. We will not get acquainted with the candidates, especially one of them to promote. There will be no faces, no programs, no calls – just explanatory information that will help our readers to understand the vertical power structure, so as not to be tangled in the intricacies of election promises.
Have you ever had such a problem that you enter a building and a cabinet you need is not specified in any way? It is necessary to guess which door to knock/call or contact the addressee for clarification, to waste time and to make mistakes. It is the same with authorities, when you know who has functions and powers, the chances of finding an answer to your question and resolve it become much greater. So let us try together to find out which authorities are responsible for what.
Who is in charge in the community?
Local issues are dealt by local councils – village, settlement, district and city. As of 2014, 52 city, 17 district, 81 settlement and 253 village councils operated in Donetsk region. There were 37 city councils in Luhansk region, 17 district, 89 settlement and 206 village ones. Since at the level of each village council it is not possible to organize high quality public services for citizens, in 2014 a political decision was made to enlarge and unite the communities. Therefore, a community is created that can unite cities, settlements and villages (or several settlements/villages). In this community, all the functionalities of life, such as education, medicine, security and social services are emerging. There may be several united communities in the district that provide services on-site that previously had to go to the district center.
Local councils are responsible for the city’s development and life sustenance. In general, they have quite broad powers. They have the right to resolve freely any matter not attributed by law to the functions of other state bodies. The local council approves the budget, the program of socio-economic development, the general plan of the community, deals with personnel affairs. The elected head leads the council, and the elected deputies on behalf of the residents of the community make decisions.
The main indicator of the effectiveness of local MPs is drafting decisions and promoting them for adoption in sessions. Statements “a deputy paved the way” or “a deputy installed electricity, thank him” – it is always a manipulation. After all, firstly, such decisions are made collectively at sessions, and secondly – they are implemented at the expense of taxpayers, that is, we are, so we should thank ourselves. If a deputy uses for solving problems not a session hall but the administrative resource (“he called someone and we have made repairs”), then it is definitely not effective because it does not make the system, but only plugs holes in the manual mode.
How can you contact local authorities if you need to solve local issues? It is better in writing – so your appeal will have to be considered within a month in accordance with the Law of Ukraine “On Citizens’ Appeals”. It is necessary to send separate appeals to a head of a council and to the deputies. All local councils have e-mail, so you can send an e-mail appeal, briefly summarizing the problem and a proposal/request to resolve it.
In a reply, which should be received within 30 days at the latest, the contact of the executor who prepared the document will be indicated. It will be possible to call him and clarify if some points are not clear. Or simply ask for the essence of the answer to be translated from bureaucratic language into human – this is also often necessary.
Local councils create executive committees and collegial bodies for prompt decision-making at the local level. The executive committees, as a rule, consist of officials of the local council, and may include local representatives of other authorities. Profile executive bodies are also created in the areas of education, health care, finances, social protection of the population, etc. Therefore, if an appeal is received from a citizen, it will be directed to the employee who, in his or her competence, is responsible for this or that direction.
A little higher level of authority and responsibility is in the regional state administrations (RSA). They are responsible for issues related to the life sustenance of the communities in the region and the balanced development of the territories. These are roads between cities, construction of capital objects, implementation of strategic programs (for example, environmental).
Also, regional state administrations have a direct influence on the administrative and territorial structure, in other words, they decide in what structure the united communities will be formed. The President of Ukraine upon the submission of the Cabinet of Ministers appoints the head of the RSA. The head of the RSA is responsible to the central authorities for the implementation of state policy in the region. The heads of district state administrations, which are also appointed and dismissed by the President, are in charge of the regional state administrations. Regional and district administrations mostly perform executive functions – as executive committees in city councils. But the district councils are representative bodies, because they are elected directly by the voters and should represent their interests in the councils.
Local councils and city/village heads are not subordinate to the head of the RSA; they are subordinated only to voters. At the same time, the regional state administration forms a budget, so it has some advantage on local self-government. In the RSA, as in local councils, there are profile departments (education, health, social protection) that collect information from local councils and decide the distribution of resources at each community level.
What is the central government responsible for?
The government, which is proportionally representing the people of Ukraine, is the Parliament, the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, which is elected every 5 years. Because Ukraine is a parliamentary-presidential republic, the Verkhovna Rada has broad powers, and its decisions in the form of laws and regulations are binding throughout the country.
The Verkhovna Rada approves the state budget of Ukraine, has the right to amend the Constitution, determine the vectors of foreign and domestic policy. The appointment and dismissal of the Cabinet of Ministers, the Prosecutor General and the Head of the Security Service of Ukraine also depend on the decision of the Verkhovna Rada. On the proposal of the President, the Verkhovna Rada may declare martial law. The appointment of one-third of the members of the Constitutional Court of Ukraine, members of the Central Election Commission and the Commissioner for Human Rights also depends on the parliament. The Council establishes the national symbols of Ukraine and may also change the administrative and territorial structure (changes in the status and composition of settlements, names and renames, etc.). In other words, the Verkhovna Rada makes political decisions, sets rules, and determines who will monitor these rules to be kept.
The best way to communicate with the Verkhovna Rada is to communicate with the deputy elected in the district where your settlement is located. On the website of the Verkhovna Rada there are pages of the deputies, where everyone’s e-mail and postal mail are indicated. You can send appeals to these addresses. It is important that it does not run beyond the powers of a Member of Parliament. In addition to the MPs elected in your district, you can apply to members of parliament for a profile of work in parliamentary committees. So, to write directly to a deputy who understands a topic that concerns you is also a good idea.
The Verkhovna Rada is the legislative body. The Verkhovna Rada delegated discretionary law enforcement to the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine, which is appointed almost immediately after the parliamentary elections. The CMU is a collegial body divided into profiles-sectors. Compared to the local councils, the Cabinet is like an executive committee that implements the decisions taken by the Verkhovna Rada and develops mechanisms for implementing those decisions. What is the sphere of this government authority? The Cabinet prepares the draft state budget for consideration by the Parliament, coordinates the work of the ministries, creates and liquidates other central executive bodies, appoints heads of government bodies (except for the government itself). Also, the Cabinet and ministries ensure the implementation of the Constitution and laws of Ukraine, the implementation of financial, price, investment and tax policies, policies in the fields of labor and employment, social protection, education, science and culture, nature protection, environmental security and environmental management and others.
The sphere of responsibility of the Cabinet of Ministers also includes implementation of measures to ensure the defense capability and national security of Ukraine, civil order, and the crime prevention.
Is each of us a President?
Although the Prime Minister has legally more powers, in practice, the most influential person is the President of Ukraine. This is largely because this post has been elected for the 5-year term, in our legislation there had no impeachment mechanism until September 2019, so prime ministers are usually resigned much more often than president were elected.
The President is responsible for national security and the preservation of Ukraine’s sovereignty. He is the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, represents the state in international institutions, can conclude interstate treaties. The President also nominates the Prosecutor General, the Head of the Security Service of Ukraine, the Minister of Defense and the Minister of Foreign Affairs. In addition, his powers include submitting nominations to the Constitutional Court of Ukraine, the Council of the National Bank of Ukraine and several other authorities.
The President has a final say on the passing of laws passed by Parliament – he can either agree or veto them. In the case of a presidential veto, the Verkhovna Rada has the option of overcoming its ⅔ MP (300 votes) or taking into account the President’s remarks.
The President has his own office. In different years, it was called differently: Administration, Secretariat, Office of the President of Ukraine (now). Formally, this is a regular office of a government body, but the real scope of the President’s authority makes his office key. Andrii Yermak, recently appointed head of the Office of the President of Ukraine has his own press secretary, thus giving the office of the informal status of a separate authority.
Who are the judges?
If a candidate for local councils promises put in order the courts and to overcome corruption in justice system, he deliberately manipulates voters’ expectations, because the courts in Ukraine are separated from other branches of government. Moreover, no authority can interfere with the work of judges.
The network of courts is divided into territories (local, regional, Supreme), instances (first, appellate and cassation) and specialization. There is also the Constitutional Court; its functions are the exercise of constitutional justice and control, as well as the official interpretation of the legislation.
Next time we will explain in detail how the law enforcement system of Ukraine operates and how the responsibilities of the police, investigative bodies, prosecutors, courts, etc. are distributed.
Who is responsible for tariffs?
Utility prices in different regions of Ukraine differ significantly due to the non-transparency of tariff formation. For example, heating tariffs are set by local governments based on the calculations of service providers or by the National Commission for State Regulation of Energy and Public Utilities (NCER). Because everyone’s calculations are different, a price is also different.
The NCER is a body of state regulation of activities in the fields of energy and utilities and, in particular, sets tariffs for utilities for natural monopoly entities and economic entities (NCER licensee).
According to the Law of Ukraine “On Local Self-Government in Ukraine”, the approval of tariffs for centralized water supply and sewerage can be provided by both local self-government bodies and authorized central executive bodies, and in some cases by NCER.
The executive bodies of village, settlement and city councils set tariffs for payment of housing and utility services provided by public utilities, and coordinate these tariffs with non-public utilities. This was made possible due to the tariff decentralization: the authority on setting tariffs by some non-NCER licensee was transferred to local authorities.
Moreover, the NCER has repeatedly stated that some local governments have started to set tariffs for housing and utility services much higher than previously set by the Commission itself. Sometimes the overpricing is less than one percent, and sometimes it reaches impressive figures. For example, for PJSC Donbasenergo (Sloviansk CHP), the local authorities in 2018 independently raised the tariff for heat for the needs of the population of Mykolaiivka by 70% from the level set by the NCER, and now it is planned to increase further.
Therefore, the executive bodies of village, settlement, city councils have the authority to set tariffs for household, utility (except tariffs for heat, centralized water supply and sewerage, recycling and disposal of municipal waste, district heating services, centralized cold water supply services, centralized hot water supply services, sewerage services established by the NCER), transportation and other services.
Pavlo OSTROVSKYI /Gromada Skhid No. 3 (12) 2020