Stop watering down anti-corruption legislation

Stop watering down anti-corruption legislation

At a time when governments around the world are speaking out about making the financial system more transparent to stop criminal activity diverting money from government coffers, news that the UK is considering watering down its new Bribery Act, just two years after it became law sends the wrong signal.

In the US both the US Chamber of Commerce, which represents thousands of businesses, and the American Petroleum Institute, have been working overtime to weaken the Dodd-Frank financial reform legislation and the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA). Dodd-Frank includes provisions to increase transparency in the financial system and ensure that companies published more information about how and where they do business. The FCPA targets bribery of foreign officials.

Costs v. Benefits

There are legitimate arguments that regulations can impose costs, particularly on small and medium sized business. This is apparently the reason for the UK Bribery Act review – but the issue of too much bureaucracy can easily be hijacked. Companies should not use it as an excuse to allow themselves the leeway to pay bribes or to abrogate their commitments to transparency.

In the UK, the Bribery Act was introduced to counter criticism from the OECD, the group of the world’s leading economies, that the UK did not comply with its Foreign Bribery Convention. The Convention makes it illegal for a company to bribe an official in a foreign country. Public opinion in Britain would be scandalised by an oil company from abroad trying to bribe a UK politician, or a junior government official.

It is too soon to tell how well the UK Bribery Act will work in practice. Businesses, particularly small and medium sized firms, are still coming to grips with what it means. In a recent survey by Ernst & Young, it found that although business with revenues of more than £50 million are aware of the Act, half of the smaller businesses surveyed were not.

So far, there have been few prosecutions. However, this does not mean that its provisions should be prematurely altered. The call should be for enforcement. According to reports, the UK government is considering reviewing the section on ‘facilitation payments’, otherwise known as bribes. No matter what the working definition is: bribes should always be illegal.

A decade of research from the World Bank and others has shown the damage that bribe-paying does to economies. This damage is not just to economic growth, by embedding the power of corrupt elites who prioritise personal enrichment over economic development, but to ordinary citizens.

Anti-bribery and anti-corruption laws are designed to stop this abuse of power. Bribes distort the free market, which cannot be in the long-term interests of a well-run company. Moreover, if a company can only win a contract by breaking national and international law, its board of directors should question whether its executives are operating a sustainable business model, one that will attract customers and investors alike.

For any press enquiries please contact


Support Transparency International

Support Us

New Report: Who is behind the wheel? Fixing the global standards on company ownership

To counter crime and corruption, law enforcement authorities around the world need to be able to swiftly uncover the identities of the real owners of companies. Transparency International argues that public registers of beneficial ownership should be the norm.

Transparency International Amalia Award

The TI Amalia Award recognises and celebrates professional excellence and impact by the anti-corruption fighters from the Transparency International movement.

هل سيشعل الفساد المستشري فتيل الخريف العربي؟

خلال الشهرين الماضيين، اجتاحت موجة من الاحتجاجات شوارع مصر والعراق ولبنان. وبلغ عدد المحتجين الذين نزلوا إلى الشوارع في لبنان أكثر من مليون شخص ينددون بالظلم، وكان ذلك غالبا في تحدّ للقمع العنيف الذي تمارسه السلطات. وعلى الرغم من اختلاف المطالب التي نادى بها المحتجون في البلدان الثلاثة، بل تختلف حتى فيما بين الحركات في نفس البلد، إلا أن هذا الغضب العارم قام على قاسم مشترك بينها: الفساد وسوء الإدارة المالية للحكومات.

Will rampant corruption spark an Arab Autumn?

A common factor has underpinned mass protests in Egypt, Iraq and Lebanon over the past two months: outrage over corruption and financial mismanagement by governments.

Better blending: how the World Bank can promote transparency in financing sustainable development

As the World Bank holds its annual meetings in Washington D.C this week, Transparency International is calling for greater transparency, accountability and participation in the World Bank’s contribution to financing the 2030 Agenda.

Fighting corruption in the age of “fake news”

"Fake news" has become a major threat to public trust in democracy and news media outlets over the past years. The fight against corruption is also affected.

Right to information: a tool for people power

Globally, approximately 120 countries have right to information laws. In some countries, these laws are top notch, but in others, the laws either don’t exist or need significant improvements. On International Right to Know Day, citizens are speaking out around the world to demand greater accountability from government. But are most people even aware of their right to request information in the first place?

Global Corruption Barometer - Latin America and the Caribbean 2019

The Global Corruption Barometer (GCB) – Latin America & Caribbean highlights the disproportionate effect that corruption has on women and a significant lack of political integrity among government leaders.

Social Media

Follow us on Social Media