The 12 May Anti-Corruption Summit in London coincides with one of the biggest corruption scandals this century: the Panama Papers. This revelation of how the corrupt launder their illicit wealth using secret companies should strengthen world leaders’ resolve to take concrete action to stop global corruption.
Already some governments have taken this opportunity to announce anti-corruption initiatives.
The US will introduce a package of steps to strengthen financial transparency, and combat corruption and money laundering. Nigeria is supporting the creation of public register of the real owners of companies to end secrecy, as are South Africa and Australia. The Commonwealth – a group of 53 countries, many from the developing world – announced new measures to strengthen members’ ability to fight corruption.
A group of 300 economists, including Thomas Piketty and Jeffrey Sachs, added their intellectual weight to the argument for an end to secret shell companies.
Is this enough? From our point of view, it’s a strong start but only a start. When the summit is over and world leaders return home, then the real work will have to begin.
“We hope that world leaders will listen closely to the recommendations of civil society when deciding a way forward. Civil society represents the voice of the people, people who suffer the pain and indignity of corruption on a daily basis.”
– Jose Ugaz, Chair of Transparency International
People won’t accept corruption any longer. In a Transparency International survey of 60 countries, the majority of people in 58 said their governments should not allow the money of corrupt politicians and businesses to be spent on luxury goods in their country. Only in Panama and Colombia was there a majority of people who said that was acceptable.
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Transparency International has a checklist for success at the summit. We believe there need to be real commitments and a timetable for action to prevent, punish and protect:
- End secret companies: the world leaders must agree to publish registries of who owns and controls companies and other legal entities.
Just two of the Group of 20 leading economies can track who is the real owner of a company and only the UK, Norway, the Netherlands and the Ukraine have so far committed to ending secret companies, by agreeing to establish public registries containing beneficial ownership information. Nigeria has called on the summit for action.
- Share more information: world leaders must agree to share data that will help end cross-border crime.
- Mandate that only companies that are on a public register that lists the real beneficial owner should be allowed to bid for public contracts.
- Ban the facilitators of corruption who do not do due diligence on their clients – lawyers, bankers, property dealers – and let them launder illicit wealth.
- Bar corrupt companies from being able to win public contracts.
- Introduce and implement laws that protect whistleblowers and others who speak up against corruption.
- Safeguard the space for civil society to operate and welcome them as collaborators in the fight against corruption.
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Civil Society and Business come together for action
One day before the summit there will be a pre-Summit event, organised by the Commonwealth, Transparency International, Thomson Reuters, the One Campaign, and the Bteam. Many Transparency International chapters will attend to share their experiences of fighting corruption around the world to contribute to the decisions taken the next day. This conference will send a strong message to world leaders: collaboration with civil society and business is key to limiting corruption.
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