Will the UK Anti-Corruption Summit make a difference?

The UK’s Anti-Corruption Summit on May 12th was a welcome initiative in the fight against corruption.

While many international organisations and forums have placed corruption on the agenda, this was the first gathering of world leaders to focus specifically on corruption and what needs to be done to tackle it.

GoodCorporation called for enforcement to be at the top of the action list along side debarment, transparency and greater whistleblower protection, so it was good to see these issues being discussed by the speakers who addressed the summit.

Three core principles were agreed:

  1. Expose corruption through increased transparency, sharing of information, eliminating loopholes and greater partnership between governments, law enforcement agencies, regulators and financial intelligence units
  2. Punish the Corrupt by bringing them to justice through the enforcement of robust laws that criminalise bribery and confiscating the proceeds of corruption.
  3. Driving out corruption by setting international standards of expectation and creating long-term partnerships to promote integrity

Forty companies have signed up to the core principles, signed a global declaration and made specific country commitments. But will it make a difference? Will the core aim of stamping out corruption be achieved?

There are 41 signatories to the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention which aims to establish legally binding standards to criminalise bribery of foreign public officials in international business transactions.

However, according to the 2014 Transparency International progress report on assessing enforcement of the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention, only 4 of the 41 signatories were regarded as active enforcers: Germany, Switzerland, the UK, the US. A regular benchmarking of countries and their efforts to enforce their legislation would be welcome. This could be used to put pressure on those governments that have signed the convention but are doing little or nothing to enforce it.

Having taken the initiative, the UK government must keep the pressure on. Exposing corruption will need resources, without which the agencies, regulators and intelligence units charged with exposing wrongdoing will fail. The UK government could take the lead by increasing resources to the Serious Fraud Office – possibly by adopting the Department of Justice model whereby the prosecutor is funded from the fines it collects.

There also needs to be a road map towards clearly defined standards of expectation and a time frame for the development of the network of international professionals and institutions that are actively working to promote integrity and good conduct.

Good businesses have been calling for greater support from governments to help level the playing field for some time. They will welcome the core principles agreed at the summit, but just as they have invested significantly in their own procedures to prevent corruption and monitor implementation; they will rightly expect the same from those in power who make and enforce the laws.


Posted May 19 2016