Yesterday CAFOD gave evidence to the independent working group which is monitoring the UK government’s compliance with the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention.
Corruption undermines economic growth and cripples public services and CAFOD supporter calls were answered as the Bribery Act entered into force in July of this year.
Kenneth Clarke has already committed the government to ensuring that there are no loopholes for subsidiaries and joint ventures within the Guidance of the Act. William Hague has stated that it will be implemented “rigorously, effectively and fairly”. It is vital that the Government stays true to these commitments.
Overall CAFOD have welcomed the progress made by the government. However, we raised a number of vital issues that must be addressed if this legislation is not to be a hollow achievement:
1. Adequate Resources: The Serious Fraud Office’s budget is planned to have almost halved between 2008/9 and 2014/15 (from £53 million to £29 million) at a time when cases under the new Bribery Act need to be investigated and more resources would be required if the Act is to be implemented effectively.
2. Keep up the focus: the UK’s anti-bribery investigations will be dealt with through the new National Crime Agency (NCA), where the stated focus is fighting terrorism and organised crime. A particular specialised focus must be maintained on anti-bribery if the Bribery Act is to be effective.
3. Closing loopholes in the Bribery Act guidance: The Ministry of Justice was required by the Bribery Act itself to set out guidance for commercial organisations about how to prevent bribery, but overstepped its remit when it also provided guidance on which commercial organisations the Act applies to. The fact is that the Act, as approved by parliament, defines the legislation. In giving alternative interpretations of the Act the Ministry of Justice has sent confusing signals to business and may have inadvertently created disadvantages for UK companies.