The UK Anti-Corruption Plan, published in late 2014, sets the strategic direction for anti-corruption activity in the UK.
It contains 66 action points that the UK government will undertake by the end of 2015 in line with four components:
- Pursue – prosecuting and disrupting people engaged in corruption;
- Prevent – preventing people from engaging in corruption;
- Protect – increasing protection against corruption; and
- Prepare – reducing the impact of corruption where it takes place.
The Plan states that the immediate priorities in the UK are to: Build a better picture of the threat from corruption and the UK’s vulnerabilities; Increase protection against the use of corruption by organised criminals and strengthen integrity in key sectors and institutions, including the criminal justice system and regulated professions; and Strengthen law enforcement response so that the UK can pursue, more effectively, those who engage in corruption or launder their corrupt funds in the UK. The international priorities are to engage with overseas partners to: Improve transparency, tackle money-laundering and return stolen assets; Raise global standards for all, including through our international development programmes; and Promote sustainable growth, including through our work to stop bribery.
The Plan sets 66 specific actions to achieve these objectives. These actions include the following:
- Examine the merits of a new “failure to prevent economic crime” offence, which would be similar to section 7 of the Bribery Act 2010 (the corporate offence of failing to prevent bribery by associated persons) but be wider in scope, covering, for example, fraud and money laundering, for which it would be a defence to have adequate procedures in place to prevent such crime.
- Consider how to encourage whistle blowers to report bribery and corruption and develop a model for a single reporting mechanism for allegations of corruption.
- Create a new central bribery and corruption unit within the National Crime Agency.
- Recruit specialists into enforcement agencies to support corruption investigations.
- Increase the powers of enforcement agencies to investigate financial crime.
It also contains a number of actions to try to combat corruption in specific sectors, such as defence and sport.
It is a positive step in the fight of global corruption that, despite the UK having low levels of corruption compared to many other countries, the UK government still sees room for improvement and recognises its role in helping tackle corruption overseas. The 66 action points seem ambitious but if they can be achieved, the UK really would be leading the fight against corruption.