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Thursday, 10 October 2013
Concerns for corruption in Local Government
A report has just been published about transparency, scrutiny, out-sourcing and Local Government:
CORRUPTION RISK ON THE RISE IN LOCAL GOVERNMENT
9 October 2013
Anti-corruption watchdog warns of new scope for corruption to thrive in local government.
London, 9th October 2013 – Changes being made to local government in the UK, particularly the removal of key corruption defences, may inadvertently allow corruption to thrive. Transparency International’s new report “Corruption in Local Government: The Mounting Risks” warns that an unintended consequence of changes such as the Localism Act and those proposed in the Local Audit and Accountability Bill may be to create an enabling environment for corruption. However, Transparency International believes that it is not too late to address this.
The report notes that experts hold widely different views about the scale and prevalence of corruption in local government, but there was general consensus that recent changes would increase the risk of corruption happening in future. It identifies sixteen recent legislative changes which increase the risks, as well as other trends such as the decline in scrutiny by local press and the move to more private sector out-sourcing. Transparency International’s report includes twenty-two recommendations, including that the Government should conduct a corruption risk assessment and strengthen whistleblowing procedures.
“Local government is undergoing substantial changes in the way it is audited, in the oversight of ethical conduct and in public accountability. We may not see the results for a decade. We are warning that one of the unintended consequences of these changes has been to create an enabling environment for corruption. While the majority of council workers and elected members observe high standards of conduct, the risk is that unethical public officials may exercise their power for private gain, unchecked by scrutiny, complaint, or the threat of punishment”, said Robert Barrington, Executive Director of Transparency International UK.
Transparency International embarked on the research after its 2011 survey showed that 47% of people polled felt that UK local government was affected by corruption. With scrutiny by the electorate already at low levels in many electoral wards, public perception - as well as actual risk - of corruption is also likely to worsen, creating further disenchantment with local politics.