CAFOD urges government to keep up fight against bribery

On Monday, Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke signalled that the implementation of the Bribery Act would be put on hold due to lobbying by the business community.

Before last year’s general election, hundreds of CAFOD supporters lobbied their MPs to support legislation that would combat bribery by UK companies. This action paid off with the passing of the Bribery Act. However, with Mr Clarke’s announcement, that  victory could be in jeopardy.

CAFOD is calling for the Act to be put into full force without further delay so that UK business plays its part in ensuring that corruption does not undermine development in the poorest nations.

Professor Mark Pieth, Chairman of the OECD Working Group on Bribery in International Business Transactions, said: “This move [delaying the Act] will hurt the competitiveness of British industry at a moment when it is most vulnerable. Allowing companies to continue to generate business by bribery actually weakens their competitive clout as they become dependent on illegal means... The OECD has... already threatened to blacklist British companies if they remained under-regulated, and patience is running out fast."

Bribes paid by companies play an important part in perpetuating corrupt regimes. They undermine economic growth and cripple public services, as money which should have been destined for healthcare, education and infrastructure finds its way into private bank accounts. The cost of corruption in Africa alone has been estimated at US$148 billion a year, representing 25 per cent of the continent’s GDP.

The Act, following various stages of consultation with business and others, as well as vigorous debate in parliament, has cross-party support. Any further review of the Bribery Act and its guidance risks creating loopholes for unscrupulous companies to exploit.

The draft guidance already addresses the genuine concerns of companies, and won’t hinder their ability to operate effectively and competitively, as long as they have adequate internal procedures in place to do all they can to prevent bribery from taking place on their behalf.

The Serious Fraud Office has noted that the new law will create a level playing field for companies and that further delay actually disadvantages ethical UK companies.
Why it shouldn’t be delayed

If the Act is delayed, it will undermine the UK’s international standing. The coalition takes a hard line on where and to whom UK overseas aid goes. If we don’t show zero tolerance for corruption by UK companies operating in developing countries, we risk accusations of double standards.

For eight years the OECD has been urging the UK to update its legislation to meet with its international obligation under the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention. It’s been two years since the Law Commission made its final recommendation to create anti-bribery legislation to parliament, and nearly a year since the Act was passed! Any more delay is totally unjustified.

An Act that is delayed or watered down risks perpetuating corrupt regimes, thereby undermining the UK’s contribution to development.

CAFOD is asking supporters to write to their MPs, asking them to urge David Cameron, George Osborne and Kenneth Clarke to implement the Act without delay and in its current form.

If you get a response please e-mail .

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