9 December 2009 | Rebecca Ellinor
Anti-corruption organisations are calling on the UK government to swiftly enact the Bribery Bill and ensure it is not watered down as it makes its way through parliament.
The bill is to receive its second reading in the House of Lords today – which is also International Anti-Corruption Day.
The legislation will make it easier for companies or senior management to be prosecuted when bribes have been offered, paid or received. It is to replace the current fragmented rules (dating from 1889, 1906 and 1916) and make it illegal to receive or accept kickbacks in the UK or abroad. It will also make it an offence if a firm fails to prevent bribery.
The UK has been repeatedly criticised for not being tougher on corruption, and today development and anti-corruption groups have together called for the bill to become law ahead of the general election.
CAFOD, Christian Aid, Global Witness, One World Action, Tearfund, The Corner House and Transparency International UK said there was a strong connection between poverty and corruption. For example, 25 per cent of the GDP of African states is lost to corruption each year, amounting to $148 billion (£91 billion), they said. This covers everything from petty bribes to inflated public procurement contracts.
In a joint statement the groups said bribery should not be tolerated at home or abroad. “As long as UK companies continue to pay bribes to secure lucrative business deals overseas they perpetuate the problem. We are therefore supportive of the government’s Bribery Bill, whose provisions must not be watered down as it makes its way through parliament. A new Bribery Act is vital to stop this supply side of corruption and make sure that UK companies paying bribes are held to account. Strong anti-bribery legislation will also enable the UK to use its influence to encourage major emerging economies to stop their own companies paying bribes.”