Please read, then read the rest of the article on the Independent‘s website.
In September 2015, Clare Short was asked by David Cameron to contribute to a book on corruption ahead of his anti-corruption summit. After she submitted it, she was surprisingly told that it wouldn’t be included – the book was taking ” a more forward-looking focus”.
There is no doubt that there are problems of corruption in some governments in developing countries. The question is what should be done about it? Some want to wag fingers and deny any aid to some of the poorest people in the world; wiser heads understand that lots of the corruption originates in OECD countries and that it is when systems are weak – anywhere in the world – that some people will engage in corrupt behaviour. If we want to reduce corruption then we need to strengthen preventative systems in both OECD and developing countries.
It is important to remember that it was not until 1996, that the OECD – the club of rich countries based in Paris – recommended that bribes paid to public officials abroad should cease to be tax deductible. And it was not until 2002 that the UK implemented this recommendation. In fact the OECD treaty requiring countries to legislate to make corrupt payments to a public official abroad, a criminal offence, was not agreed until 1997 – less than 20 years ago.
Importantly, the OECD put in place monitoring machinery to expose countries that failed to implement the treaty requirements. The UK does not come well out of the monitoring. In 2008 the OECD Working Group said that it was “disappointed and seriously concerned” about the UK’s continued failure to address deficiencies in its laws on bribery of foreign public officials and on corporate liability for foreign bribery, which it said had hindered investigations. This led to a new Bribery Act being passed into law as recently as 2010. The new Act was welcomed by the OECD Working Group, but the government was being intensively lobbied by business interests over the details of implementation.
In February 2011 the chair of the OECD Working Group expressed his disappointment over the delay in the promised entry into force of the Act, originally promised for April 2011. At last in March 2012 the Working Group found that the UK had significantly boosted its foreign bribery enforcement efforts but needed to be more transparent when resolving cases. It also asked for a roadmap to extend the Convention to UK Overseas Territories.
By October 2014 Transparency International found that of the 41 countries, accounting for two thirds of world exports, that had signed the OECD Anti Bribery Convention, only four countries were “actively investigating and prosecuting companies that cheat taxpayers when they bribe foreign officials to get or inflate contracts or obtain licenses and concessions”. Happily the UK had by then arrived at a state of grace and was found to be engaged in active enforcement alongside the US, Germany and Switzerland. The countries with little or no enforcement included Japan, The Netherlands, South Korea, Russia, Spain, Mexico, Brazil, Ireland, Israel and 12 others.
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