Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Corruption is a UK problem too

Transparency International has just published its Global Corruption Barometer, sadly it is not good news for the UK . There is now a perception that the UK political system appears to have lost its puritanical past. That's hardly surprising when you think of the recent boasts of some parliamentarians that they can 'make things happen'.

We may like to believe that the Bribery Act will stop all that nastiness but if we do we fail to recognise basic human nature, temptation, and opportunistic behaviour. We also fail to recognise that those who were subjects of the recent parliamentary 'stings' would also been involved in bringing the Bribery Act into law.

To make matters worse there is a political storm in Northern Ireland, where the traditionalist and protestant fundamentalist Democratic Unionist Party have become embroiled in internal allegations of using party influence to skew public procurement decisions. Even the First Minister, doesn't know who to believe. The claims were made as part of a BBC Spotlight programme and of course the DUP are naturally calling into question the reporting (as an aside you may recall that it was a BBC Spotlight programme which had previously raised public procurement questions regarding Peter Robinson's wife and the awarding of a catering franchise a few years ago). While perverting procurement decisions is bad, the DUP now appear to want to obstruct a fuller debate on the issue. The saga of the actual contracts in question is just so bizarre that a weeks blog posts couldn't bring you up to speed but by way of example it involves a firm who admitted charging for maintenance work on blocks of flats which no longer existed!

My advice to the DUP would be to open this whole saga up to as much scrutiny as possible otherwise it will become a running sore.

But we also need to look wider than the UK for frustration with corruption in public procurement - let's not forget that one of the reasons for the recent protests in Brazil was frustration with corruption.

Those involved in public sector procurement, regardless of whether they are politicians or practitioners need to be perceived to be 'whiter than white', particularly when there are spending cuts and the population are on the receiving end. Yet, in how many public sector organisations do we now see evidence of a robust approach to 'owning' and combating the corruption problem or even personal accountability? I don't view this as something which will just 'go away' unfortunately, given the right conditions, which I think we have, I think it can only get worse.

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