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The start of a “transparency revolution”?

Written by Rachel Davies on Thursday, 31 October 2013

At the G8 summit, David Cameron said the UK’s leadership of the Open Government Partnership (OGP) this year would “drive a transparency revolution in every corner of the world”. Has the Prime Minister’s promise been delivered in the UK’s OGP national action plan?

At the G8 summit David Cameron said the UK’s leadership of the Open Government Partnership (OGP) this year would “drive a transparency revolution in every corner of the world”. Has the Prime Minister’s promise been delivered in the UK’s OGP national action plan?

As lead Co-Chair of the Open Government Partnership (OGP) the UK Government launched its action plan this morning outlining how it plans to push forward the transparency agenda.

Among the various commitments made in the plan, there are two that I believe could make a real difference to the fight against corruption in the UK:

Although various government departments and institutions deal with corruption, until now there has been no one person or department coordinating this work – i.e. no overall strategy, no centralised data collection, and no accountability to Parliament or the public. One of the main consequences of this is that the Government does not have a good overview picture of the state of corruption within the UK. The OGP National Action Plan includes a commitment to develop an anti-corruption action plan that coordinates anti-corruption activity across all Government departments.

This morning the Prime Minister announced that the UK will implement a public register of the real owners of companies – meaning that it will become much harder to hide illicit funds in this country. London and other financial centres can act as a clearing house for global corruption – corrupt money can too easily be laundered via banks into apparently legitimate property and investments. The more we know about who owns such assets, the harder it becomes to hide the corrupt origins of the money. There is more that the UK needs to do to tackle this problem, including tackling the question of how trusts are used for the same purposes, and the creation of public registers of beneficial owners in Crown Dependencies and Overseas Territories. But this is a significant first step.

Since late last year, the UK Cabinet Office has been proactive in meeting with various individuals, charities, and other non-governmental organisations that care about transparency, corruption, and open data, as it has been drafting the National Action Plan. I have to commend the members of the Cabinet Office Transparency Team for their proactive approach to engaging civil society in the process.

They have done a good job, but the result is not perfect. Unfortunately, there is nothing in the OGP National Action Plan on addressing the concerns around the obscure world of lobbying or ensuring that plans to restrict freedom of information requests are curtailed. It would be the ultimate irony if the same government that has wholeheartedly endorsed the OGP process were to limit the Freedom of Information Act. Civil society groups in the UK will continue to press for improvement in these areas.


Read 5810 times Last modified on Tuesday, 24 November 2015 12:18

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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