4 February 2014 | Will Green
Nearly a fifth of UK firms believe corruption has prevented them from winning a public contract within the past three years.
This compares to an average figure of 32 per cent across the entire EU, where more than four in 10 companies believe a range of illegal practices in public procurement are “widespread”, including specifications tailor-made for certain firms, conflict of interest in bid evaluation and supplier collusion.
Meanwhile, 15 per cent of UK firms considered corruption to be a problem when doing business generally, compared to an EU average of 43 per cent, and 46 per cent feel corruption is widespread, against an EU average of 75 per cent.
The survey of firms was carried out by the European Commission as part of its first Anti Corruption Report, which found construction, energy, transport, defence and healthcare were the sectors most vulnerable to corruption in public procurement.
Corruption in business, which costs the EU €120 billion (£99.4 billion) a year, was most likely to be considered a problem by firms in the Czech Republic, Portugal, Greece and Slovakia.
A separate survey of EU public attitudes found three quarters of people believe corruption is widespread and more than half feel it has worsened over the past three years.
However, in the UK 64 per cent feel corruption is widespread, while the country has the lowest proportion of respondents who said they were asked to pay a bribe in the past 12 months (less than 1 per cent).
In Greece the largest proportion of respondents, both businesses and the public, felt corruption was widespread (99 per cent for both).
Cecilia Malmström, EU Commissioner for home affairs, said: "Corruption undermines citizens' confidence in democratic institutions and the rule of law. It hurts the European economy and deprives states from much-needed tax revenue. Member states have done a lot in recent years to fight corruption, but today’s report shows that it is far from enough.”