NGOs demand tougher action on corruption

Tearfund and Christian Aid are among the NGOs calling for greater government commitment to rooting out corruption.

The Bond Anti-Corruption Group said much more must be done to address the role played by UK banks and companies in “fuelling and facilitating” corruption overseas.

In a report to coincide with International Anti-Corruption Day, the group warned of potential loopholes in the new UK bribery laws that came into effect last summer.

Under the UK Bribery Act 2010, companies and individuals face unlimited fines for facilitating or failing to prevent bribery. Individuals found guilty could be sentenced up to 10 years in prison.

Bond is concerned that the Serious Fraud Office lacks the resources to enforce the laws and stop companies paying large bribes to foreign governments in return for lucrative contracts.

With the Financial Services Authority reporting that 75% of British banks do not know the source of funds deposited by their high risk customers, Bond warned that the UK is “wide open” to corrupt funds.

Melissa Lawson, Chair of the Bond Anti-Corruption Group and Tearfund policy adviser said: “The failure to act here in the UK when it comes to enforcing bribery laws and tackling dirty money has devastating effects on developing countries, undermining good governance and exacerbating poverty.

“This report shows why the UK must not remain ambivalent when it comes to addressing the real issues in the fight against corruption.”

Although the group welcomed the Bribery Act, it called for more resources to enforce the provisions and ensure that UK banks do not facilitate corruption by accepting corrupt money.

"The laws are there to tackle corruption but there is complacency in the face of growing corruption threats,” said Eric Gutierrez, Senior Governance Adviser at Christian Aid and one of the report’s authors.

“The Government’s International Anti-Corruption Champion must instigate an anti-corruption strategy and ensure that there are sufficient resources to tackle this issue."

The report was welcomed by Catherine McKinnell MP, Chair of the newly formed All-Party Parliamentary Group on Anti-Corruption.

She said: “International Anti-Corruption Day provides the UK Government with the perfect opportunity to commit to tackling the obstacles identified if Britain is to play its part in addressing international corruption.

“We need a coherent, properly-resourced approach to dealing with this issue, which causes suffering to millions of people in the developing world, and threatens to undermine the important investment the UK makes in international development.”