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Austerity and conflicts of interest fuelling UK corruption risks

Corruption risks in areas such as business, education, local government and elections are neglected and poorly understood because officials focus on bribery overseas, warns the UK’s Fraud Advisory Panel in its report, Hidden in plain sight: domestic corruption, fraud and the integrity deficit. The report points out that crimes committed elsewhere grab headlines and resources, while data on domestic corruption are not collected systematically, let alone analysed.

There is no dedicated infrastructure or single agency in the UK responsible for taking the lead in policing domestic corruption. Everyday practices like revolving doors, nepotism, ‘self-regulation’ and excessive ‘hospitality’ – while not strictly illegal – work by stealth to divert resources and opportunities, concentrate power and advantage, and corrode trust.

“The neglect of domestic corruption risks sits uncomfortably with everything else we know about the epidemic of economic crime in the UK,” said David Clarke, chairman of the Fraud Advisory Panel.

“With most types of economic crime rampant, why would corruption be the exception? If UK companies commit bribery overseas, why would nothing similar occur at home? We add our voice to the growing chorus demanding a clear and positive commitment to ethical business, both at home and abroad.

“Corruption isn’t a single event or act; it is a process whose ultimate objective is to create a culture in which it can become the new normal. Everywhere we look in Britain today we see signs that just such a culture is beginning to take root.”

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