Affluent Parliamentarians Exploit Housing Privileges To Earn Lumps Of Free Cash

KIEV, Ukraine -- For years Ukrainian members of parliament have solved their housing problems at the state’s expense. A parliament member’s right to free housing is guaranteed by law.

Artem Shcherban an afluent businessman and parliament deputy who applied for free housing to be paid by the state

Although public funds are used for this purpose, information about elected officials who receive housing or equivalent compensation is strictly kept secret.

The system of providing housing for parliament deputies has been in place for years. Parliamentarians can either take an apartment from the state or the equivalent in monetary compensation.

They may also use government-owned housing, which they return after their terms in parliament are complete. This latter option is rarely chosen.

Most legislators prefer housing to compensation.

Twenty-one parliamentarians elected in 2006 opted to take money allocated for housing and spend it themselves.

Compensation for these 21 amounted to around Hr 7.6 million, or approximately $1.5 million.

But now Parliament’s Administrative Department plans to spend about $30 million on housing.

The last address where deputies were given apartments was 24 Sribnokilska Street.

Today only a handful of parliamentarians still reside there.

Most of them sold their apartments and moved to the suburbs.

The actual market prices of the properties were much higher than the official prices set by parliament, and the sales of those apartments generated nice profits for certain legislators.

The housing ‘freeloaders’ include business-partners of billionaire Rinat Akhmetov, the brother of President Viktor Yushchenko, Petro, widely regarded as an affluent businessman, and a number of former top governmental officials.

Few have managed to say no to a free apartment.

Learning the names of those deputies that are in queue for free housing was not an easy task.

After Korrespondent on April 21 published the list of parliamentarians who already received housing, Oleksandr Yefremov, head of the Rada committee responsible for doling out the apartments, was upset that information had been leaked and refused to share information that he deemed confidential.

The reasons for the increased secrecy are obvious.

The list of 77 deputies in need of housing, according to the committee’s protocols provided by Deputy Oleh Lyashko of Yulia Tymoshenko’s Byut bloc, includes many successful businessmen from all factions.

The ruling coalition is represented in the commission by Yefremov, former governor of Luhansk Region.

Vitaliy Bort, a representative of the Donbas ‘iron’ lobby and a former commercial director of Yasynuvata machine-building plant, is also on the committee, as is socialist Oleksiy Kunchenko, honorary president of Ukraine’s largest chemical enterprise, Severodonetsk Union Azot.

Opposition members are not far behind their counterparts in the ruling coalition.

Stepan Glus of Byut, and formerly head of Ukraine’s most profitable alcohol producer, Nemiroff, is also a candidate for receiving free housing in Kyiv.

Valeriy Kalchenko of Byut, a former emergencies minister and mayor of Kirovohrad, is also on the list.

The list contains names of individuals whose claims for free housing seem outrageous and serve as a sign of their greed.

For example, documents for a one-room apartment were submitted by Deputy Artem Shcherban (Party of Regions), son of Volodymyr Shcherban, the former governor of Sumy Region.

Artem Shcherban ran the Gefest oil company before winning a seat in parliament.

In 2005 his company operated 70 gas stations and the younger Shcherban was rated to be one of the 10 most successful managers in the domestic petroleum business.

In addition to his own assets, Shcherban also has access to his father’s bank accounts.

Former Interior Minister Yuriy Lutsenko said that Artem withdrew millions of dollars from his father’s accounts in the spring of 2005.

Shcherban can hardly be considered homeless.

According to information obtained by Korrespondent, he often stays at his father’s large mansion located 30 kilometers from Sumy.

By the end of 2005, the younger Shcherban was already an owner of a dacha in Boryspil district of Kyiv Region and a luxurious mansion on the banks of the Dnipro River in Kyiv.

Businessmen are not alone in the lineup for free apartments.

There are famous public personalities as well.

For example, Byut’s Andriy Shevchenko, previously a popular TV journalist, signed up for the housing because he wants his own place of residence, allowing him to leave his wife’s apartment where he now lives.

Shevchenko reluctantly spoke about his plans, which contradict the words of his bloc’s leader, Yulia Tymoshenko, who appealed to deputies to refuse all perks and privileges.

Of 450 parliament members, 227 have already used their privileges to acquire housing at the expense of the state.

The others received housing or compensation when they were elected to parliament in the past, while some are still waiting for their turn in the free housing queue.

Source: Kyiv Post

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