Britain ‘seen as more corrupt since MPs’ expenses scandal’
Report by Transparency International says Britain has dropped in league table of countries perceived to be cleanest in world
The MPs’ expenses scandal has contributed to the UK dropping to 20th in a table of countries seen as the least corrupt in the world.
Britain is seen as an increasingly corrupt country in the eyes of the world, in part because of the scandal caused by MPs’ expenses claims, according to a report published today.
The report by Transparency International reveals that Britain has dropped dramatically to 20th in a league table of countries perceived to be the cleanest in the world.
Each year, Transparency International compiles a league table of all the countries in the world, ranking them as to the perceived levels of corruption among politicians and public officials. Four years ago, Britain was seen as the 11th cleanest country in the world. However the UK has steadily slipped and now nestles next to Chile and Qatar.
The rankings are based on surveys of international experts and institutions.
Denmark, New Zealand and Singapore tie for the accolade of the least corrupt country, while Somalia comes last. This morning, Chandrashekhar Krishnan, executive director of Transparency International UK, said: “This is the leading global index of corruption, and the UK is now seriously at risk of dropping out of the top 20.
“Yet it should be aspiring to be within the top 10. How else can the UK’s calls for better governance in developing countries be taken seriously?
“A reputation for probity is vital to exercising influence on the international stage and in conducting business successfully.”
He said that the MPs’ expenses scandal has had a bigger and longer-lasting impact on domestic and international opinion than politicians had hoped.
For years, Britain has been criticised for failing to prosecute companies which pay bribes to foreign politicians and officials to secure big export orders. Most notoriously the Blair government abruptly halted a major corruption inquiry into Saudi arms deals in 2006.
However, prosecutions have now started, and in the last year, a handful of companies and executives have been convicted.
In the latest prosecution by the Serious Fraud Office, the chief executive of a City firm is due to be sentenced this morning at Southwark crown court, in London.
Julian Messent, the former head of PWS insurance firm, has admitted making corrupt payments of £1.2m to three officials in Costa Rica to win contracts.
Britain’s failure to prosecute foreign bribery has been partly blamed on its outdated, fragmented and complex anti-corruption legislation. In its dying days, the last Labour government brought in a modernised law to stamp out bribery. It was passed by parliament in April, but has yet to be implemented by this government. Ken Clarke, the justice secretary, announced in the summer that the act will not be enforced until April next year, so further consultation on its details can be held.
Krishnan added that Britain’s worsening performance in the league table “strengthens the case for the UK’s new bribery act to be properly enforced, and sends a warning signal to the government that there should be no dilution of the bribery act or further delay in its commencement”.