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Anti-Corruption: Why open governance matters

Written by Rachel Davies on Thursday, 16 July 2015

On Monday, the Cabinet Office and the UK Open Government Civil Society Network launched the third Open Government Project – the consultation process for drafting the third UK National Action Plan on Open Governance.


Corruption hurts the poorest in society, in the UK and abroad.  We need to ask ourselves: what kind of society do we want the UK to be? One that is fair, and just, and does not promote misery elsewhere?  Or are we happy with a system that allows money stolen from corruption-resources-corruption-resources-health budgets in developing countries to be invested in Mayfair mansions?

The open government project offers the opportunity to change the status quo on many issues by enabling more transparency in how UK systems operate. For example, in the case above, by establishing transparency over who owns the companies that are buying up so much of Britain. At the moment not even the Land Registry knows the answer to that one.

We know from experience that when corruption takes hold, it can be extremely hard to eradicate – institutions and systems can quickly deteriorate.  Strong institutions that are transparent and accountable are bulwarks against corruption.

Open governance plays a vital role in the fight against corruption. There are a few key opportunities for government and civil society to change to status quo as the third OGP UK National Action Plan commitments are drafted:

Collective governance

We should all be part of the coalition against corruption – governments, resources-resources-business, and civil society. We’ll make a bigger dent in the damage caused when we work together effectively.

Corruption does not respect borders. As we draft national level commitments, we need to keep in mind that domestic & international corruption are inextricably linked. It’s also important that we seek to cooperate with international partners. We can learn from each other.

Deliver open data that’s fit for the purpose of detecting and deterring corruption

TI research has identified a lack of data relevant to corruption in the UK, making it difficult to analyse and address the problem. Consistency must also be built in disclosure across public bodies and private sector companies that deliver public services.

Further the UK’s lead on beneficial ownership

Corruption thrives under conditions of secrecy, which the Government has already acknowledged in its approach to beneficial ownership transparency for British companies.  However, more can be done to extend this beyond the UK.

In addition to establishing transparency over who owns the companies that own so much UK property, it’s important to turn transparency into a benefit for companies themselves, and not just other stakeholders. For example, many foreign companies bid for UK Government contracts. The Government could create a transparency dividend, such that transparent companies will be the preferred partners in deals and have greater eligibility for bidding processes.

I’m excited about the opportunity we have over the next few months. If we get this right, then rather than allowing our country to be a safe haven for the corrupt, we can ensure that the UK is a catalyst for encouraging openness and reducing corruption here and around the world.

For more information on how to get involved in the UK Open Governance Civil Society Network, click here


Read 931 times Last modified on Wednesday, 11 November 2015 10:07

Rachel Davies

Rachel Davies Teka is Head of Advocacy at TI-UK, and co-chair of the Bond Anti-Corruption Group. You can tweet her @rachelcerysd.

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