On June 15 2010, Ken Clarke was appointed as the UK’s international anti-corruption champion.
Personally appointed by the Prime Minister, Ken Clarke promised to work closely with colleagues, authorities and agencies to develop a strategy to combat international corruption.
According to him: 'The champion role sends out a clear message that the UK coalition government will not tolerate bribery or corruption.'
As well as sending out that clear message, Ken Clarke also promised that he would work ‘closely with colleagues across departments, devolved administrations, law enforcement, prosecution authorities and regulatory agencies to ensure a coherent and joined-up approach to combat international corruption.
To date we’re yet to see a ‘joined-up approach to combat international corruption’.
In short, a plan.
We’re calling on Ken Clarke to develop a plan
This is disappointing. Corruption is real and its effects are disastrous. As the Bond Governance Group argue in their anti-corruption paper,
‘Corruption has devastating effects on developing economies and their citizens’ quality of life. Its cost in Africa alone has been estimated at US$148 billion a year, representing 25% of the continent’s GDP. Corruption undermines economic growth rates and cripples public services, as money which should be destined for re-investment and public expenditure finds its way into private bank accounts, often abroad.’
Too often many consider the existence of corruption as a reason to do nothing. The reality is, there’s much we can do in the UK to combat corruption.
The paper identified a number of areas and opportunities that the UK has to fight corruption. For example, the first three that the paper raises include:
- Illegitimate payments: bribery of foreign public officials
- Lack of transparency in legitimate revenue payments by companies
- Illicit and harmful financial flows out of developing countries
These three issues demonstrate that there is much the UK can do to fight corruption. They are issues that deserve a ‘joined-up approach’ to address.
And they are the issues that we are campaigning on.
First, on July 1 the Bribery Act will come into force. This is a much needed update to Britain’s anti-bribery laws. However – the Act itself has been undermined by the guidance notes that the government released. By opening up huge loopholes the government has weakened the ability of the Act to address the very thing it is supposed to.
We’re calling on Ken Clarke to properly implement the Bribery Act
Second, transparency in the natural resource industry is critical to fighting poverty. Too often the wealth generated by the natural resources doesn’t go towards improving the lives of the very owners of the resources – the citizens themselves.
It was encouraging then to hear George Osborne agree that there needs to be greater transparency in the natural resource industries.
"As we enter a new decade when the resources of Africa are going to be heavily developed, I strongly believe it's in everyone's interests that mining companies and others operate to the highest standards. That's the way to ensure some of the world's poorest benefit from the wealth that lies in the ground beneath them. That's why I've raised the issue of new international rules at the G20 in Paris - the first time that's happened. And that's why Vince Cable and I will be arguing for an European agreement that matches the new standards just set in the US.”
Third, illicit financial flows rob countries of the funds they need to develop. Global Financial Integrity have calculated that between 1970 and 2008 Africa had lost $854 billion in illicit financial flows. That was the conservative estimate. The most generous estimate put the figure at $1.8 trillion.
Critically, they argue that our financial systems promote, perpetuate and exacerbate this problem. As their report points out
This massive flow of illicit money out of Africa is facilitated by a global shadow financial system comprising tax havens, secrecy jurisdictions, disguised corporations, anonymous trust accounts, fake foundations, trade mispricing and money laundering techniques.
Whilst they can appear overwhelming, the common thread running through these examples are the opportunities they provide for us to get involved, take action and demand a better outcome for the world’s poor.
Ultimately, overcoming extreme poverty will not occur by throwing loose change at the problem. Rather, it is the systems and structures that keep people poor that need to be changed.
And that’s where you and I step in.
That’s why we’re campaigning for Ken Clarke to announce the government’s strategy to combat corruption.