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Upcoming: Government Action Plan on corruption

Written by Robert Barrington on Sunday, 13 July 2014

The Government announced last year that it would publish its first-ever National Anti-Corruption Action Plan. Since TI first proposed this idea five years ago, we have been arguing that the Government should draw up such a plan, and we are delighted that it is now happening.

The Government announced last year that it would publish its first-ever National Anti-Corruption Action Plan. Since Transparency International first proposed this idea five years ago, we have been arguing at every occasion that the Government should draw up such a plan, and we are delighted that it is now happening.

It’s worthwhile reminding ourselves why this is necessary.  The UK is by no means corruption free. The first three cases prosecuted under the Bribery Act, which was expected to apply to British companies bribing overseas, were all for bribes paid in the UK.  A recent opinion survey showed that 5 per cent of citizens polled in the UK had paid a bribe at least once in the past year.  And the same survey showed that 90 per cent of people think that the UK government is captured by special interests.  Meanwhile the UK, which used to be in the top ten of the Corruption Perceptions Index now stands at 14th having slipped to 17th.

On the positive side, the Government has appointed a new cross-government anti-corruption coordinator in the Cabinet Office, and from Treasury to Home Office has been saying more about corruption than any UK government in the modern era.  The Prime Minister has been particularly robust, followed closely by the Home Secretary.  The upcoming National Anti-Corruption Action Plan is a welcome sign that the Government acknowledges there is a problem.

As and when the Plan is published – which may be in the near future – we are of course very keen to see how good it will be.  How will we know?  Well, Transparency International has in the past five years published several assessments of the UK’s approach to corruption, including our 2011 report on Corruption in the UK and the Anti-Corruption Scorecard in 2013.  These are generally regarded as the definitive assessments on UK corruption.

Here are six tests by which we will be able to measure how good the plan is:

1. What it includes – and what is left out.  The plan needs to cover difficult subjects such as parliament political parties and defence, not just obvious ones like local government, police and prisons.  Our Scorecard provides a useful road map for what should be there.

2. How the plan will turn into action.  There is a simple win here – giving a commitment to proper resourcing for enforcement of existing laws such as the Bribery Act.  It’s a safe assumption that enforcement agencies such as the SFO and Metropolitan Police could generate enforcement revenue for the Treasury in seized assets and fines that represents many multiples of any increased enforcement budget.  And above all the government should stop stripping away the anti-corruption defences that already exist, such as the Audit Commission.

3. Listen to the people.  The plan needs to show how citizens will be involved in the UK’s fight against corruption – at minimum through knowing where and how to report and that it will be taken seriously, but also to reflect citizen concerns such as the capture of government by special interests.

4. Knowing where we stand.  The plan will need to include a mechanism for measuring progress that fills the government data vacuum on UK corruption.  An integral part of this is a corruption risk assessment of all government departments and agencies, just like the risk assessments that companies undertake to avoid breaching the Bribery Act.

5. Taking responsibility.  The plan will need a governance mechanism that gives genuine accountability and clearly explains how coordination will happen – which has been a weakness in the past.

6. It’s not a flash in the pan.  The Government needs to secure cross-party support for this bold initiative so that it will be continued after the election.  Corruption should not be the turf for political point-scoring, any more than terrorism is – it is too serious for that.


Read 8836 times Last modified on Tuesday, 24 November 2015 12:18

Robert Barrington

Robert is TI-UK's Executive Director. You can view his full bio here, and tweet him @TIukED.

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