Continuing lack of transparency in the UK's Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies
Corruption has a disproportionate effect on the poorest and tackling it requires a co-ordinated, long-term approach across Government, with strong leadership from the top.
But the continuing lack of transparency in the UK's Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies risks significantly hindering efforts to curb global corruption and damaging the UK's reputation as a leader on anti-corruption.
In their report, Tackling corruption overseas, the International Development Committee addresses the approach of DFID and the wider UK Government to tackling corruption overseas.
Government missed opportunity
The London Anti-Corruption Summit in May 2016 positioned the UK as a global leader on anti-corruption. The Summit delivered 600 commitments from participating states and organisations and the UK committed to bold new measures to tackle corruption both in UK and overseas.
However, despite calls to put 'our own house in order', Government missed an opportunity to build on this momentum and persuade the UK's Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies to create public registers of beneficial ownership.
The Committee calls for greater vigilance across government to ensure DFID’s efforts to reduce corruption in its priority countries are not undermined by policies and programming pursued by other Government departments.
Stephen Twigg MP, Chair of the Committee, said:
"Revelations such as the Panama Papers and the Bahama leaks have moved tackling corruption up the international agenda. Anti-corruption efforts are also prominent in the Sustainable Development Goals (within SDG 16) on which the International Development Committee has reported.
We welcome the introduction of the Criminal Finances Bill and the news that Sir Eric Pickles has been reappointed to the role of Anti-Corruption Champion, based at the Cabinet Office. In a speech last week to the Anti-Bribery and Corruption Forum, Sir Eric outlined the Government's continued commitment to 'tackling corruption, money laundering and economic crime, working in partnership with the City and British businesses to identify risks, raise standards, and promote a level playing field globally.
The IDC has previously called on the UK Government to get its own house in order. This remains the case. Ministers must address the role of some UK companies and individuals in facilitating global corruption, including the vast amounts of money laundered through the UK. Government must continue to lobby for the same level of transparency and accountability to be applied in the UK’s Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies, for example by the creation of public registers of beneficial ownership.
The Government's commitment to the creation of a cross—government Anti-Corruption Strategy and the establishment of the Joint Anti-Corruption Unit, based in the Cabinet office earlier this year is to be welcomed. To have real impact overseas, this progress must be complemented through its work in developing countries. DFID must publish its anti-corruption country strategies, long overdue internal reviews and country plans as a matter of urgency.
Huge amounts of money are lost every year through illegal tax evasion, money laundering and bribery. The people most at risk from this scourge are the world’s poorest, who lose out on education, healthcare and infrastructure; not to mention the impact of petty corruption on their daily lives. It is vital that the UK's established commitment to anti-corruption measures places their needs first and foremost."