The Unified State Register of Legal Entities, Individual Entrepreneurs, and Public Organizations (hereinafter referred to as the USR) is the main business register of the country, which contains current and historical information on all legal entities and individual entrepreneurs. The register includes the names of legal entities, their identification codes, locations, types of activities, and information on the founders, members, directors, etc.
The USR has been published in the form of open data since 2015. Since then, it has been used by civil society and business for many purposes, including:
- inspections of counterparties;
- journalistic and anti-corruption investigations;
- search for assets of russian oligarchs.
In addition to using its own data, the USR ensures interoperability with many other registers since it is the only register with a complete list of legal entities and individual entrepreneurs with unique identifiers.
According to Article 6 of the Law of Ukraine "On Access to Public Information", restriction of access to the USR (access with user identification has been implemented) should be carried out only when the following conditions for restricting access are provided:
- exclusively in the interests of national security, territorial integrity, or public order to prevent riots or criminal offenses, to protect public health, to protect the reputation or rights of other people, to prevent the disclosure of information obtained in confidence, or to maintain the authority and impartiality of justice;
- disclosure of information may cause significant damage to these interests;
- the harm of disclosing such information outweighs the public interest in obtaining it.
Without passing the specified "three-fold test", restricting access to information is unjustified and harmful. The real risks posed by opening the USR in wartime have not been publicly discussed, nor have the harms of restricting access to the USR. Instead, a total and inconsistent restriction is applied, which leads to blocking the work of civil society activists, complicating anti-corruption investigations, and extracting funds from market participants.
After all, while access to the USR remains limited, it is possible to get full access to the registry through the paid API of SE "NAIS", which is used by dozens of companies, individual entrepreneurs, and hundreds of their employees. At the same time, among the companies that have full (albeit paid) access to the USR are several banks with russian capital.
From 12.26.2022, limited access to the USR was provided through identification with a qualified electronic signature (QES) with an additional download of closed-source software, which violates the principles of openness and transparency and contradicts the Law "On Access to Public Information". The meaning of the restriction on the identification of the QES is unclear since any Ukrainian collaborator or pro-russian user with an account at CB "PrivatBank" can make a QES for free in a minute, not to mention remote commercial services.
Based on the announcement of the open access to the USR for searching and generating extracts from it in electronic form on the “Diia” portal, it can be concluded that instead of free access to the register, exclusive access to the "Extract from the USR online" service is created exclusively through the “Diia” portal.
Closing the USR, as well as giving exclusive access to it, makes it impossible to carry out anti-corruption activities, in particular, public control/monitoring of the reconstruction process to minimize violations in the process of payment of compensation and implementation of reconstruction projects, namely, to avoid:
- double financing of objects;
- unjustified prioritization of financing objects due to political or corrupt influence;
- involvement of unscrupulous contractors/builders or contractors/builders connected to the aggressor state;
- fraudulent schemes for the sale of damaged objects, etc.
Considering the above, we call on the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine to:
- conduct urgent public consultations on the issues of disclosure of USR information and carry out an examination of risks to the interests of national security in case of publication of individual USR data and ways to prevent them;
- revise Resolution No. 263 of the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine dated March 12, 2022, which authorizes information managers, owners, and/or administrators of information resources to take during the period of martial law such additional measures as pausing, limiting the function of informational, informational-communicational and electronic communication systems, as well as public electronic registers;
- revise other acts of subjects of power, which restrict access to information of the USR against the law;
- restore access to the USR, taking into account the requirements of the law, on the principles of legality, reasonableness, proportionality, bona fide, and prudence, taking into account the rights of business and the public to participate in the process of making such decisions.
Representatives of the Coalition are ready to join public consultations on the opening of the USR and provide legal support in developing solutions for opening the registry as soon as possible.