Ukraine’s Infrastructure head resigns over bureaucracy and budget cuts

Mustafa Nayyem
Mustafa Nayyem

Mustafa Nayyem, head of the State Agency for Infrastructure Restoration and Development, confirmed his resignation and posted an official statement on his Facebook page on June 10 explaining the reasons behind his decision.

<span class="copyright">Источник NV</span>
Источник NV

“I am resigning as the head of the Agency for Infrastructure Restoration and Development. I have made this decision on my own due to systemic obstacles that do not allow me to effectively carry out my duties. Since last November, the Agency’s team has faced constant opposition, resistance and the creation of artificial obstacles.

First of all. Our budget for road restoration and maintenance projects was completely cut. I am aware of the limited resources and the importance of military spending. However, no funding of infrastructure maintenance will inevitably affect, first of all, the condition of roads strategic for defense and, as a result, the entire military logistics. If this does not change, we will face complications in military logistics and exports next season.

Second. We have been plagued by bureaucracy, when it takes months to get approved documents for payment for defense structures, fortifications or restoration. They are sent back six to eight times with ridiculous comments, delayed for several months, and some have not been approved to this day. At the moment, the government has not approved for three months the disbursement of almost EUR 150 million ($161 million) that the state has borrowed from the EIB (European Investment Bank) for critical projects, including water supply and energy protection. All this has consequences, which I have officially reported on several occasions. Late payment of contractors’ work undermines confidence in the state; delays in financing slow down and in some areas stop construction work altogether, which means a loss of confidence by the market, local authorities and citizens. Most importantly, all of this negatively impacts the country’s defense capabilities, cargo logistics, protection of critical infrastructure, and the export of our goods.  It is clear that such actions will sooner or later lead to criticism of our team and dissatisfaction of our international partners.

Third. In addition to this, since the beginning of the year, the Agency has been significantly cut in salaries, with most of the employees were cut up to 68% of their salaries. The government did this contrary to any logic and common sense. And no, we didn’t have outrageous salaries - a senior specialist at the Agency used to get a little over UAH 30,000 ($735), and now it’s UAH 14,000 ($343). As a result, since the beginning of the year, we have already lost 25% of our team, as I have repeatedly written letters to the Prime Minister of Ukraine, the Security Service of Ukraine, the NAPC (National Agency on Corruption Prevention) and the Ministry of Finance, and as the G7 ambassadors have repeatedly said at meetings with the Prime Minister. I believe that this was done on purpose so that the Agency, which to some extent has become a model for building processes from scratch, would simply run out of professional and motivated people, and the Agency itself would be recognized as ineffective and unnecessary.

Despite all these obstacles, we did not fail or stop a single project, military cargo or evacuation route during the entire period of the great war. Today, the Agency is simultaneously coordinating the work of 353 (!) reconstruction sites all over the country. This is the most difficult job in my life.

Over the course of the year, we managed to implement a large number of projects. After the liberation of the affected regions, we restored almost 1.3 thousand kilometers of roads and traffic on 330 bridges. We repaired 29 major checkpoints on the western border, and began designing the reconstruction and construction of two new checkpoints. After Russian troops blew up the Kakhovka hydroelectric dam, we quickly constructed a 155-kilometer main water supply pipeline in Dnipropetrovsk Oblast, which will provide drinking water to 1.5 million people.

One of the largest projects of the Agency is the construction of drone/missiles protection structures at 22 distribution substations of NPC Ukrenergo and protection of 103 power facilities against shrapnel damage, which was entrusted to us by the decision of the Supreme Commander-in-Chief’s Staff. All the works on protection against drones and shrapnel have been completed. And thanks to this, after the latest shelling, power engineers managed to restore power supply in Kharkiv, Odesa and Mykolaiv oblasts as soon as possible.

This was done without any unnecessary PR, ribbon cuttings, or photo ops. It was our job, not a heroic act. Working under incredibly critical conditions, we developed and implemented a large number of procurement standards that yielded results in the first year - hundreds of millions in savings and market recognition. We also pioneered the practice of publishing prices for key materials to ensure transparency and efficiency in the use of public funds and to protect the credibility of the Agency.

All of this was possible thanks to the support of the Ministry and the Minister, who allowed us to make independent decisions and achieve results without waiting for stabs in the back. With the dismissal of the Minister, this became impossible, and the latest decision of the Prime Minister to cancel my official participation in the Conference on Ukraine’s Recovery in Berlin confirmed this.

I am not ashamed of what we achieved during the full-scale invasion.

Of course, there were mistakes and shortcomings, without which it is impossible to implement projects of such complexity and in such conditions. But we always reacted and tried to do better. In the end, we have shown that the state apparatus can work more transparently, that officials can take responsibility and achieve results without unnecessary bureaucracy. And I will be sincerely sorry if our plans, processes and standards in this area are destroyed.

Obviously, we did not always fit into the current style and team of public administration. And I do not exclude that there will be attempts to persecute and discredit our work in the public sphere. In fact, this has been happening for a long time. I am ready for this, and before my resignation I asked all law enforcement and regulatory authorities to take all measures to verify the legality and transparency of the Agency’s decisions.

Today I wrote my letter of resignation and said goodbye to the team of the Agency and the heads of the Restoration Services in the regions. Realizing the responsibility that lies with our team, I will fulfill my duties until the Government makes a decision on my dismissal and hands over the business to my successors. I am ready to do everything in my power to ensure that the Agency continues to implement projects that are critically important for the country. For the time being, our entire team and the Restoration Services in the regions continue to work as usual.

I was appointed Head of the Agency on the proposal of Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov, and together we started working in the Ministry, where I was his Deputy for almost a year, and where together we started the restructuring and cleaning up the Ministry and its subordinate institutions from pointless bureaucracy and corruption. I am sincerely grateful for his trust.

I am also grateful to my entire team, my deputies, the heads of the Regional Restoration Services and numerous international partners and diplomatic missions who have been by my side all this time, helping to rebuild Ukraine.”

The Prime Minister’s Office did not respond to a request for comment at the time of publication.

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Read the original article on The New Voice of Ukraine