06 November 2008 | Paul Snell
Government claims that the UK is leading the way in tackling corruption are "fiction", according to a major NGO.
The comments from Laurence Cockcroft, chairman of Transparency International UK, follow a highly critical report from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). The group said it was "disappointed and seriously concerned" about the "continued failure" of the UK to address deficiencies in the law on bribery of foreign officials and corporate liability for bribery.
"The recent injection of extra resources cannot disguise years of inaction and the need for reform," said Cockcroft. "The facts are plain to see - more prosecutions of companies and individuals are needed to send the right message to business."
The OECD study, drawn up by a working group bringing together all 37 countries that have signed up to the OECD's anti-bribery convention, said there were "systemic deficiencies" that showed the need to safeguard the independence of the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) and stop obstacles to prosecution. While the report praised the extra resources given to a specialised police unit to tackle such cases, reform is "urgent" and a "political priority".
The OECD recommended eliminating the need for the Attorney General to give consent for prosecution of foreign bribery cases and to ensure he does not give instructions to the director of the SFO.
The government said it was "fully committed" to tackling bribery. The CBI said businesses "would welcome the modernisation and simplification of the UK's existing legislation".