Blair urges firms to publish payments

4 June 2003
More legal news

05 June 2003 | David Arminas

Tony Blair, the UK prime minister, is to urge Britain's oil, gas and mining companies to publish what they pay to governments in developing countries as part of a major anti-corruption campaign.

At an invitation-only meeting of foreign government representatives, non-government organisations and business leaders later this month, Blair will ask all parties to sign a "principle of agreement" document to disclose contract payments.

The meeting, to be chaired by Baroness Valery Amos, secretary of state for international development, is the next stage of Blair's initiative for more openness in the extractive industries launched last year at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg.

A Department for International Development spokesperson said the aim was to achieve a partnership approach to eradicate corruption.

Jeremy Pope, executive director of Transparency International, a pressure group for greater openness in dealings between business and foreign governments, welcomed the move.

He told SM: "Ordinary people in developing countries will see exactly how much money their country gets from these contracts so they can hold their governments accountable."

The British government recently outlawed payments by UK companies to foreign governments as part of their dealings to get contracts signed.

The UK believes paying bribes to government officials in developing countries encourages corruption within the governments and in turn lays the foundation for terrorism.

Peter Smith, president of CIPS, agreed that the initiative was the way forward.

"Getting rid of corruption is of paramount importance to CIPS and involving all parties in a solution is positive," said Smith, who chaired the CIPS working party on ethical behaviour and corporate social responsibility.

"CIPS has also done a lot of work with major oil companies, training local staff in developing countries on ethical behaviour.

"But Tony Blair's initiative will work only if all parties agree, not just one company or one government."

Ten major UK institutional investors, including Schroders Investment Management and the Co-operative Insurance Society, have endorsed the initiative.

A statement by the group said public interest in foreign corporate accountability had been heightened by questions over the US's intentions towards Iraq's oil reserves and who gets contracts to rebuild the country.

• The US government agency General Accounting Office is to scrutinise the contracts dealt out by the USAid department to American companies for rebuilding Iraq. Foreign firms suspect the awards, likely to total £1 billion or more, are going to firms closely associated with advisers to President George Bush.

SMjun2003

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