Project description

"Declarations" is the biggest online database of Ukrainian officials’ assets, with adapted full-text search and innovative analytical platform, created by the team of Bihus.Info (group of anti-corruption and informational projects). “Declarations” is not just a website, it is a project aimed at increasing the transparency of public officials’ financial declarations, increasing public awareness and participation in anti-corruption activities, and building the capacity of civil society and media to counteract corruption.The project addresses the need to stimulate Ukraine’s civil society, media, and citizens to play a participatory role in implementing the anti-corruption laws adopted by the government in 2014-2016, and to provide instruments through which these groups can combat corruption. The laws require a much larger group of public officials to declare their income and assets than there were previously required to do so, and our website addresses the need to make that information available to the public through a user-friendly, searchable online database.To date, the website is the largest platform with the officials’ declarations, armed with powerful analytical tools. It contains more than 23,000 digitized paper declarations from 2011-2015, as well as more than 2.3 million declarations retrieved from the official e-declaration website of the National Agency on Corruption Prevention (NACP). The analytical tools of the website enable media and investigators to pick up stories and launch investigations into cases of asset and income fraud.

What makes this project innovative?

The "Declarations" website, created by civil activists, already has more visits than the official declaration register of the National Agency on Corruption Prevention (NACP), having more than 1,4 million views per month. With 23 thousands of digitized declarations from previous years (digitized by 3500 volunteers through crowdsourcing) and innovative IT-instruments that can show markers of corruption, it became one of the most powerful tools of public control in Ukraine.But the story of the project started much earlier, in 2014, after the Revolution of Dignity.Under powerful bureaucracy, it was too hard to control officials, ministers, or MPs because their paper declarations were not made public. Almost nobody could know what officials own and how much they earn. But the demand for transparency was growing and the team of “Declarations” (first we set up NGO White Collar Hundred, later the Bihus.Info as a group of projects was created) decided to convert paper declarations, scans and archives into convenient electronic form.They have created a website where every volunteer can get paper declaration (in PDF) and extract data from it into a Google form. IT-volunteers have developed a proper search engine, and it became possible to find any official who owns a Bentley, for example.At the same time, the project team was one of the pioneers of launching public electronic declaration system in Ukraine. By the official launch of the system in 2016:- “Declarations” team had conducted a few advocacy campaigns, involving different stakeholders in the process of increasing transparency, - the development of “Declarations”, including its design, was used in the construction of the official platform and project,- co-founder of “Declarations” Dmytro Chaplynskyi became a consultant of the World Bank to help with the creation of the platform,- more than 3500 volunteers helped to digitize 23,000 paper declarations.“Declarations” became a powerful innovative tool for journalists and civil activists from the whole Ukraine. It opened new opportunities for corruption fighters, allowing not only to find something but to process information the right way.Moreover, it became a catalyst for public supervision of National Agency on Corruption Prevention, the main function of which is to check and control officials` declarations. The publicity of the results and analysis by the media help in activating the anti-corruption work in Ukraine. This, in turn, increases the accountability and transparency of new anti-corruption institutes and encourages intolerance to corruption and violations of law in society.

What was the impact of your project? How did you measure it?

Nowadays, "Declarations" is one of the most powerful tools for civil society to control the authorities in Ukraine.Innovative analytical instruments which show the full picture of assets of Ukrainian officials provide an ample amount of opportunities for journalists, activists and even new law enforcement agencies, such as the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine and the National Police.More than 1,4 million users visit the “Declarations” website every month. Thousands of investigations and articles based on the data from “Declarations”, are made by teams of investigative journalists, such as “Our Money with Denys Bihus” (also a project of Bihus.Info), “Skhemy”, “Slidstvo.Info”, including cases about:- The new Chief of Ukrainian Police, who didn`t declare his wife`s property.- The new Head of State Fiscal Service, who registered an expensive car in his 70 years old mother's name.- candidates to the new Supreme Court, many of them have “problems” with their declarations. The journalists have uncovered the discrepancies and reported to the Judicial Commission, effectively preventing the appointments of dishonest judges,- offshore companies of Ukrainian politicians- and even the Head of National Agency on Corruption Prevention, who didn`t mention the car she uses in the declaration (*you can watch this and other journalistic investigations of Bihus.Info team with English subtitles in this playlist on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLj1W_YfyNdvmaVLDCSn3FmoGrNUh_34Gd)With the help of “Declarations”, Ukrainian journalists have acquired new evidence for their previous investigations, including the “Panama Papers”, which contains information about the offshore companies of President Petro Poroshenko.It should be also mentioned that the “Declarations” project facilitates the increase of regional journalistic activity.The great number of journalistic investigations and a weak reaction from law enforcement agencies led to a new project launched by Bihus.Info team in 2017. The main idea of project “Tysny!” (“Push!”) is to provide journalists with legal support and help them bring the corrupt officials to justice.This way, the Bihus.Info team, being the creators of “Declarations”, have a “complete cycle” to tackle corrupt officials: from the platform to find and analyze data, to their own investigations based on this data, and legal support for activists which uncover corruption all over Ukraine.

Source and methodology

The main idea of the “Declarations” was to create a convenient base containing all the declarations, both digitalized by volunteers and filed electronically since 2016.The developers of "Declarations" have integrated all data from the official website and implemented a number of useful analytical and search tools:- Automatic updates from the declaration register of the National Agency on Corruption Prevention;- Converter from old (paper) and new (electronic) format to a common format;- Full-text search across an array of declarations supporting Ukrainian morphology: filters like years, positions, and regions let users find specific information in one click;- Alerts by e-mail and chatbots when new declarations by a person of interest to the user appear (through monitoring function in the personal account of a user);- The ability to track an official`s links to the companies that win public procurement biddings;- Category tool that hides empty fields and makes it possible to go directly to the desired section of a declaration;- 5 levels of innovative search with new operators and commands,- and the biggest analytical module (launched at the end of 2017) which allows to organize and filter information in various ways: for example, to find all officials who own a Bentley.Moreover, even those declarations which were hidden from the official NACP site (like the declarations of some prosecutors), are still available on declarations.com.ua.These improvements have greatly enhanced opportunities for investigative journalists in Ukraine and searching for information more convenient and fast.

Technologies Used

All source code is under MIT license and available from Github.Croudsourcing platform - to digitize paper declarations.Python/Flask/Mongo framework that manages task distribution across volunteers, collects and processes results. 327 commits.Main website: Python/Django for the website. PostgreSQL for CMS content, user profiles, monitoring tasks. Elasticsearch for the search. Scrapy/CouchDB/Chakra for the ETL pipeline. AWS services for mass email sending and other misc tasks. Microsoft Bot Framework for chat bots (Skype, Telegram, Facebook). Qlik Sense for business intelligence.662 commits.The project team is constantly working to improve the usability of the service. Recently, they have launched chat bots (Skype, Telegram, Facebook) to make getting data more convenient. For example, journalist who is waiting near the Supreme Court and sees a Tesla car can write the bot. And in a few seconds they can get the declarations of all judges who own a Tesla.

Project members

Dmytro Chaplynskyi — lead developerAndrey Turyk — designDmytro Hambal — crowdsourcing frameworkDmytro Nechyporenko — Declaration form plugin for crowsourcing platformArtem Hluvchynskyi — ETL pipelineOlha Makarova — analyticsVolodymyr Flonts — searchalso Andrii Ulianenko, Hlib Kozak, Oleksandr Botezatu, Ihor Ruban, Kyrylo Zakharov, Volodymyr Hotsyk and 3500 volunteers

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