During his speech this week at the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Anti-Corruption, Richard Alderman, Director of the Serious Fraud Office claimed that Whitehall infighting was threatening the enforcement of anti-corruption measures. This was also picked up by the Times, and the FT.
This again demonstrates the need for greater coordination of the Government’s Anti-Corruption work. The Government has committed to a zero-tolerance approach to corruption, yet allegations of infighting would indicate that this is being undermined by the temptation to ‘indulge in bureaucratic fighting about who takes over particular areas of work.’ This is where leadership is needed from the International Anti-corruption Champion.
Not as clean as we would like
It is easy to see the UK as relatively free from corruption. Yet it appears we might not be as ‘clear’ after all. The resistance to the Bribery Act 2010 indicates that some organisations, individuals and firms had previously been explicitly or implicitly involved in this scourge – or at least were concerned that they would not be ‘squeaky clean’ in this regard. Furthermore, it is enlightening that according to Mr Alderman, 2000 calls were received (from around the world) within a handful of weeks of the SFO setting up an anonymous whistle-blowing hotline SFO Confidential. Perhaps the UK is not as ‘clean’ after all – and it is only now coming to light.
Money must be returned
But there is another side to this. Effective enforcement is also important so that where appropriate, victims are recompensed. We must return corrupt money back to the victims.
It is the world’s poorest communities that are most impacted by corruption, so we must do all we can to ensure that cases of corruption are investigated, prosecuted and that poor communities receive money that has been corruptly taken. Strong action from the International Development Select Committee has helped to do this in the case of Tanzania, whereby the Committee put pressure on BAE to make the repatriation immediately ‘for the benefit of the people of Tanzania’.
This week’s case of former Nigerian politician Ibori pleading guilty to ‘conspiracy to defraud’ in Southwark Crown Court again brought the issue of corruption closer to home. But more action is needed, and in the Ibori case every effort must now be made to guarantee that the stolen funds are returned and used for development.
This is why strong leadership from the International Anti-Corruption Champion is needed – to prevent infighting and to bring cross-department co-ordination. Political will is required so that agencies investigating and prosecuting corruption (principally the City of London Police and the SFO) are well resourced.
With so many cases to investigate, surely Whitehall‘turf-wars’ cannot be an excuse or a distraction from the real issue of corruption being tackled.