It has been a year of ups and downs for combatting corruption in the UK. Scandals in several institutions showed that corruption is a much greater problem than recognised and highlighted the UK’s continued complacency to corruption’s insidious threat. However, there have been some successes in the fight against corruption this year, giving hope for continued progress in 2013. Here’s a rundown of some of the best and worst of 2012.
March: Peter Cruddas, the Conservative party co-treasurer, resigned after it was revealed that he offered access to the Prime Minister and Chancellor for up to £250,000. This scandal demonstrated the urgent need for reform of political party funding in order to ensure that access to the Government is not simply sold to the highest bidder.
May: Members of the London’s Metropolitan Police Service Anti-Corruption Unit were accused of accepting bribes. One of the officers in question was accused of selling information regarding a Nigerian official, James Ibori, who laundered millions of pounds of public money from his homeland. These allegations greatly damaged public perception of police integrity. It was one of a series of stories in the year pointing to police corruption – a worrying trend.
June: It emerged that staff at several banks had been manipulating the London Interbank Offered Rate (Libor). The abuse by these bankers of their positions of trust for the sake of corporate and private gain was ethically corrupt behaviour and exposed weak corporate governance. Several banks have accepted fines linked to manipulating Libor and some individuals have been arrested in connection with the scandal.
July: Oxford University Press announced a settlement with the SFO for paying bribes in East Africa. Another great British institution caught out in exporting corruption, joined by Rolls Royce in December. Are British products so poor that they can only be sold through paying bribes? The good news: both companies self-reported and promised to reform.
October: A Sunday Times investigation found that ex-military officials were willing to breach official rules regulating the movement of individuals between jobs in government and jobs in business. These Generals were using their connections to secure defence contracts. The scandal added to public distrust of the Government and exposed the need for tougher regulation on the ‘revolving door.’
December: This year’s Corruption Perceptions Index showed Greece slipping to 94th place out of 176 and Russia at number 133 – getting uncomfortably close to the lowest-ranked countries Afghanistan, North Korea and Somalia.
Despite these high profile scandals there have been some real victories in the fight against corruption.
January - November: The Leveson Inquiry should be applauded for bringing to light the cosy relationship between politicians and the media and the bribing of police officers. The inquiry encouraged a discussion within the public domain about the behavior of media outlets, politicians and the police and exposed corruption within these institutions. As yet, no action has been taken by the Government in light of the Leveson Report. However, we hope to see the replacement of the discredited system of self-regulation.
July: July marked the one-year anniversary of the commencement of the Bribery Act, which made it a crime for UK citizens and companies to pay a bribe. Although TI-UK believes that more needs to be done to enforce this new law, it is a huge step forward that those attempting to prosecute bribery now have the correct apparatus to do so.
July: Parliament’s Public Administration Select Committee (PASC) published a report on the ‘revolving door’. The PASC recommended more robust rules on the movement of individuals between the public and private sector. While these recommendations have not yet been adopted, it is promising that MPs are examining the rules governing the ‘revolving door’ to ensure that government officials will not be influenced by the interests of past or prospective employers. The PASC report can be downloaded here.
October: Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg announced that the UK would support new EU rules to force oil, gas and mining companies to publish payments to any government over €80,000. Since then the UK has been pushing for this legislation in the EU which would expose corruption and ensure that the benefits of natural resources are enjoyed by all citizens’ and not just corrupt governments. TI-UK hopes the EU will introduce these rules soon.
November: Over 2,000 people gathered for the International Anti-corruption Conference in Brasilia. During the conference delegates from across the world discussed how to combat corruption. Several key themes emerged from the conference such as ‘the end to impunity’ and the UK and other financial centres’ role in laundering the proceeds of corruption.
2012 has been an eventful year in the fight against corruption. Looking forward to 2013, TI-UK will continue to work to combat corruption in the UK and reduce the role of the UK in fuelling corruption abroad. We would welcome your help. Click here to find out how to get involved.
Julia Ridpath is part of the TI-UK Communications Team