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A million "turnkey": Cherkasy boarding schools continue to generate millionaires around them

November 10, 2023, 14:30 161 Author: Artur Chemyris Reforms in Ukrainian public procurement since 2015, bypassing the Prozorro system and the law on public procurement. The problem of abuses by some officials and impunity in this area.

For many years, Ukraine has been working towards the introduction of the principles of efficient and transparent use of public funds. Starting from 2015, the reform of the sphere of public procurement began, which with each subsequent step limited the possibilities of officials in terms of avoiding competitive procurement.

However, all these years there were individual officials who did the seemingly impossible, namely, bypassing the "Prozorro" system and the law "On Public Procurement" and mastering the multi-million dollar budgets of the entire industry, while avoiding any responsibility or condemnation. For this, all the conditions were created even during the times of Soviet power. During the years of independence, the situation has changed little.

Two human extremes converged in the network of psychiatric boarding schools: the incapacity of some and the unprincipledness of others. How some abuse the limitations of others - further in the material.

History of the question

Provision of social protection of the population is one of the most important expenditure items of any budget at any level. However, these sums are traditionally the most visible and the most significant in the overall structure for regional budgets. The reason for this is the network of psychiatric boarding schools, which are on balance and, accordingly, maintained by the regional authorities. The founders and managers of most such institutions are regional councils. Until the moment of the full-scale invasion of the troops of the Russian Federation on the territory controlled by Ukraine functioned 145 psychoneurological boarding schools, in which there are permanent residents lived 41 thousand people. 10 such institutions operated and operate in Cherkasy Region.

According to Soviet model deployment of a network of social care homes, most of them were located in rural areas, far from large cities. During the 30 years of independence, Ukraine has not significantly reformed the relevant approach and has mainly preserved the network it had at the time of the collapse of the Soviet Union. In particular, in Cherkasy Oblast, only one institution is located directly in the city - we are talking about the Smilyan psychoneurological boarding school, which as of 2020 accommodated 200 wards and which is located on the outskirts of the third largest city in the region. The remaining nine institutions are located in villages whose average distance from Cherkasy exceeds 50 kilometers.

The development of the corresponding network began after the end of the Second World War, when the number of people with limited capacity and disabilities, as well as beggars, increased rapidly. Just to “isolate” special closed-type houses were created for relevant categories of people in the conditions of the formation of the "new Soviet society", in which people with disabilities, deprived of guardianship and opportunities to provide for their own needs, and beggars could live to old age without appearing on the streets of large cities. Over the years, the number of people with war-related physical disabilities has decreased. The reason is aging and, as a result, death. However, in order for these institutions not to be empty, they began to be increasingly filled with another category of people - those who have mental illnesses and need separate care and treatment, and in the conditions of Soviet society, even isolation. It was they who began to live compactly in a network of houses, which had previously been created precisely for such purposes - isolation and segregation. similar conclusions in particular, they are contained in the studies of Kharkiv scientists from the local Institute of Social Research.

Despite the criticism of human rights defenders and doctors towards such an approach and its backwardness from the realities and norms of modern civilized society, the responsible and relevant officials actually did not take and are not taking any decisive steps to significantly change the situation. "Remote" from civilization and, as a result, from any effective control, institutions with thousands of wards that need to finance their own maintenance are an ideal environment for probable corruption and embezzlement. Signs of abuse and the creation of "preferences" for individual entrepreneurs regarding the financial resources allocated to the functioning of these institutions can be recorded in Cherkasy Oblast as well.

A million turnkey: Cherkasy boarding schools continue to generate millionaires around them

All for their own

Psychoneurological boarding schools operating in Cherkasy Region belong to the regional council. It is from the regional budget that the relevant institutions are financed. At the time of the adoption of the main estimate of the region at the end of 2021, it was planned to spend 288 million hryvnias to support the activities of ten nursing homes and three more geriatric boarding houses. This is almost 15% of the funds of the general fund of the budget of the entire region. Of this amount, more than 100 million hryvnias are funds that were planned to be spent directly on the current needs of the wards living in these institutions, namely the purchase of food, medicine, clothing, furniture and other equipment necessary for everyday life. The list of goods that are necessary for the full functioning of institutions is significantly wider than a typical set, since the wards actually live here and try to lead a full life. Peculiar needs give rise to peculiar suppliers and suspicious economic activity. A pool of entrepreneurs has formed around social welfare institutions, which can supply both automobile tires and chemical fertilizers at the same time, while also carrying out current repairs of the premises - a kind of "supermarket" for the needs of individual customers.

Since the full-scale invasion of the Russian army on February 24, 2022, more than 3,000 agreements with a total value of slightly more than 66 million hryvnias have been concluded in ten psychiatric boarding schools. Of these, 2,900 agreements worth almost 41 million hryvnias are direct agreements concluded without competitive procurement. The average value of the transaction in this way is 13 thousand hryvnias.

These more than 2,900 agreements were distributed among 284 different enterprises and entrepreneurs. The vast majority are the latter. The distribution of funds between them is far from even, and among them there are clear favorites with dozens and hundreds of deals worth millions of hryvnias concluded in a non-competitive way.

In most cases, entrepreneurs "specialize" in supplying goods to one or at most two boarding schools. Thus, since February 24, Petro Potapenko concluded 109 direct agreements for the supply of various food products. All of them are contracted with the Mokrokalihirsky psychoneurological boarding school, which is located on the territory of the former Katerynopil district. As an entrepreneur, Potapenko is registered in Shpola, and the Prozorro system contains information on more than 350 agreements between him and the Mokrokalighir Psychoneurological Boarding School in the amount of over 6 million hryvnias. The first agreement was concluded back in 2018.

Potapenko is a typical contractor for a network of psychoneurological boarding schools - he has a large number of agreements with one institution and actually does not cooperate with any other customers and managers of budget funds. In 2022, after the full-scale invasion, Potapenko was active exclusively in purchases made by the Mokrokalighir boarding school, despite the fact that dozens of other customers in the former Shpolyansk and Katerynopil districts announced similar purchases of food products that Potapenko supplies to the boarding school.

We tried to contact Pyotr Potapenko, however, another person answered the phone number indicated by him in the tender documents. The woman reported that Petro Mykolayovych is not engaged in procurement and that other persons do it on his behalf, however, she refused to tell who exactly.

A million turnkey: Cherkasy boarding schools continue to generate millionaires around them

The way to success

In itself, the situation where one supplier dominates in a particular region or when it comes to a particular establishment is not surprising and may have a purely economic rationale, related, for example, to logistics or available production or storage capacity. However, in the case of psychiatric boarding schools, the situation is somewhat different. On the basis of anonymity, the players of the respective markets say that such hegemony of individual suppliers is not achieved without the participation of the administration of institutions. We spoke with several unrelated suppliers of various product groups who had previous experience working with these establishments, but for one reason or another, their experience was unsuccessful.

Suppliers of food and non-food products are interested in the opportunity to participate in purchases made by boarding schools, given their volume and regularity. However, the implementation of agreements concluded as a result of such tenders faces a number of obstacles. First of all, we are talking about the reluctance of the management of boarding schools to cooperate with anyone other than the circle of entrepreneurs with whom they work under normal, non-competitive conditions. At least, this is the impression one gets after trying to communicate with both the management of these establishments and their "favorite suppliers". This reluctance has quite material manifestations. Less than half a percent of the agreements concluded by institutions in 2022 were signed as a result of competitive procurement.

The administration of establishments can either articulate claims to the quality of products and refuse to accept them, or place orders in small batches every day, says the interlocutor of "18000", who is familiar with the situation. The facilities are mostly located dozens of kilometers away from warehouse facilities, accordingly, each shipment of goods has a significant logistical component, which is especially noticeable when, as a result, the goods are not accepted for one reason or another.

A million turnkey: Cherkasy boarding schools continue to generate millionaires around them

The interlocutor's words are confirmed as a result of studying the tender documentation, which is made public by institutions during procurement. In particular, announcement on the purchase of frozen fish by the above-mentioned Mokrokalighirsky psychoneurological boarding school, it is envisaged to supply the product in small batches until the end of 2022, and requests must be fulfilled by the supplier within 24 hours from the moment of receipt. Similar requirements are contained in the rest of the purchases. Accordingly, participation in procurement took only one participant - Petro Potapenko, who offered a price of 106 hryvnias per kilogram. The contract was concluded on August 2, and already on August 11, the invoice for the supply of more than 215 kg of fish worth 22 thousand hryvnias was signed. It is difficult to call it a small party, which could and does scare away many participants. After that, there is no information about the supply of fish to the institution. By applying discrediting opportunities during the execution of the contract, the customer can influence the entrepreneur's income and, accordingly, his desire to cooperate with the relevant institution in the future. It was not possible to contact the head of the institution. From the beginning, he announced that he was in the hospital, and then did not pick up the phone.

In this way, at each institution, on a non-competitive basis, using administrative levers, a minimum set of entrepreneurs was formed, who supply the entire group of food products - from frozen fish and meat to vegetables and dried fruits.

whose assets for 2022 include a little less than 70 deals worth almost 1.1 million hryvnias. In a comment to "18000", Serbyn directly stated that he is not currently engaged in procurement and is only "registered as an entrepreneur". His FOP is actually being used by another person. Answering the question of who signs and seals on his behalf, he noted that a person with the surname Panchenko does it according to the "assignment". Among the institution's counterparties is entrepreneur Anatoly Panchenko, who is also engaged in the supply of food products and has 57 agreements concluded with the Chekhov PNI for 2022. Anatoliy Panchenko confirmed his use of the "Olexandra Serbina" FOP for his own economic needs in the comments of "18000". In this way, it is Panchenko who is the beneficiary of the supply of food to the institution and notes that all those willing can take part in competitive purchases organized by the institution, however, he does not know why they do not do so.

Similar "monopolies" were created in the supply of other goods to meet the needs of institutions. In particular, a resident of Zolotonoshi Svitlana Strashenko for 2022, concluded more than 70 agreements worth about 1.4 million hryvnias with the same Chekhov psychoneurological boarding school. While Serbin specializes in the supply of food products, while having a sales contract in place socks, Strashenko covers most of the institution's other needs. The 55-year-old woman registered as an entrepreneur at the beginning of 2022 and, according to the Prozoro system, concluded her first agreement with the institution a few days before the full-scale invasion. All agreements signed between her and the institution are non-competitive. During this time, she recorded supply contracts in her assets toothbrushes 45 hryvnias per piece, socks at a similar price, construction cranes and a dozen other positions, the list of which can be envied by an average marketplace on the global Internet. At the same time, it is impossible to check the quality of these goods and their conformity with the price. The concluded agreements do not contain a detailed specification, only the general name of the subject of purchase.

We tried to get in touch with the management of the Chekhiv psychoneurological boarding school, but its director, Demyan Svisht, refused to communicate with the author of the article, stating that the journalists wanted to "stun" him.

A million turnkey: Cherkasy boarding schools continue to generate millionaires around them

Similarly, we did not manage to get in touch with the entrepreneur Svitlana Strashenko. A man who introduced himself as her nephew answered the telephone number listed in the Prozorro system. He only confirmed that the woman had indeed registered as an entrepreneur in the winter and promised to pass on our contacts, noting that he brought her to the registrar. However, no one contacted us.

A similar story with a clear favorite takes place in Budyshchansk psychoneurological boarding school. Here, over 160 agreements were concluded with the local entrepreneur Volodymyr Oliynyk in 2022 alone. He, like his "colleague" from Zolotonoshi Strashenko, cooperates exclusively with one administrator of public funds - a boarding school, in our case located in the village The future There is no information about other customers of Oliynyk in the "Prozorro" system.

159 agreements with Oliynyk were concluded by the institution's administration without competitive procurement, six more - as a result of allegedly competitive procurement, but which took place with a minimum number of participants. Among the requirements of the documentation is the same "retail wholesale supply" within one day from the moment of receipt of the application. Since registering as an entrepreneur in 2016, 29-year-old Volodymyr Oliynyk has a total of almost 500 agreements with administrators of budget funds, or rather one administrator - the Budyshchan Psychoneurological Boarding School. He does not cooperate with other customers. His "specialty" is food products. In a comment to "18000", he noted that he is "not interested" in the purchases of other customers, however, he helps them as a "volunteer". We were unable to contact the institution's management.

Also his favorites at the October psychoneurological boarding school. Here, entrepreneurs Svitlana Zadnipryana and Ruslan Tkachenko received the lion's share of deals during the year. They have 164 contracts for two during 2022. 13 agreements were concluded as a result of simplified procurement conducted in March of this year. Tkachenko won all of them, having virtually no competition. According to Svitlana Zadnipriana, during 2022, the institution concluded exclusively direct agreements, the value of which amounted to 1 million hryvnias. The subject of most of the agreements signed with Zadnipriana are food products, and there is also a contract, for example, for the supply of nails and toilet paper.

According to information from the "Prozorro" system, for the year 2022, this tandem has only 1 contract concluded other than with the Zhovtnev psychoneurological boarding school: on supply пhousehold appliances to the order of the Chervonoslobyd settlement council.

We did not manage to get in touch with either Zadnipriana or Tkachenko. His wife picked up the telephone number of the latter and refused to make any comments, noting that "that's not what we do."

The head of the institution, Halyna Chernenko, was not verbose either. At first, she convinced that all agreements are concluded exclusively on the basis of competitive procurement. Then she moved on to accusations and advised to take an interest in the problems of the wards and help them, and not to make purchases, which, according to her, take place in accordance with the law and transparently.

Running in a circle

Based on the above facts, it can be stated that the multimillion-dollar resource, aimed at the financial support of such care institutions, is actually distributed manually by persons, officials, who have the right to sign business documents. A small percentage of agreements between institutions and suppliers are concluded as a result of truly competitive procurement, and it is quite problematic to determine the real effectiveness of such actions. The "limited" circle of suppliers and the results of communication with allegedly responsible persons add to the doubts. An entrepreneur who gave his seal to another person, a "nephew" who drove an entrepreneur aunt to the state registrar, and simply an unknown woman - that's who we managed to communicate with using the official numbers of individual entrepreneurs with whom social care institutions concluded contracts for several million hryvnias.

A million turnkey: Cherkasy boarding schools continue to generate millionaires around them

Management of the industry and institutions are also in no hurry to comment on their economic activities. For two weeks, we did not receive an official comment from the department of social protection of the population of Cherkasy Oblast, and only when this material was almost ready did the Cherkasy Oblast dryly inform that they are conducting operational control only over the correctness of the economic classification of expenses and the provision of social services. The rest, judging by the response of the officials, is out of control. Also, there are no "complaints" about the activities of these institutions and from the side of law enforcement officers. In the response of the Cherkasy regional prosecutor's office, we were informed that facts that could indicate possible criminal offenses by officials of the boarding school or their suppliers were not recorded by them. It remains to be hoped that the relevant specific economic activity of social care institutions is formed exclusively in the interests of boarding school wards.