ACCORDING TO RESEARCH conducted by Transparency International's UK national chapter (TI-UK), "corruption is a greater problem in the UK than is currently recognised", and while it is a "growing threat", the government's response is "inadequate".
TI-UK's special focus on "corruption in the UK was the most extensive of its type carried out in the country. It examined 23 sectors and institutions in Britain, and 48.1% of respondents said they did not think the government was effective in tackling corruption. According to the results, four institutions stood out as having particular problems with corruption: Parliament, political parties, prisons, and sports. Perhaps not surprisingly, political parties were perceived as the most corrupt in the country, followed by professional sport and Parliament.
What makes political parties more odious to the populace is that the UK is one of the few industrial democracies that do not have a ceiling on donations to political parties. As such, a high dependence on very large individual donations has increased the risk of corruption and exacerbated public unease about donors' influence over politicians.
A good 86% of respondents said a seat in the House of Lords for a businessman who has made large donations to a political parry was potentially corrupt. This view has been reinforced by recent scandals in Parliament involving MPs' expenses, charges of nepotism against some MPs, the public's continuing worries over lobbying companies, and the access of interest groups to MPs.
A scandal in March 2010 in which several MPs and former ministers offered their influence and contacts to journalists posing as representatives of a potential corporate employer interested in hiring them for lobbying work, has also exacerbated concerns about the "revolving door" between government and the private sector. Respondents think this is undermining trust in government, because of the potential conflicts of interest.
According to TI-UK's research: "Discussion in the UK about the problem of corruption often tends to assume, rather complacently, that it is a problem that exists in other countries, particularly in the developing world. [But] corruption has been a problem in the UK for much of its history and it was widespread in the 18tH and 19th centuries. Bribe-paying was common, and it is less than 200 years since a seat in Parliament could easily be bought or given as a gift. The UK is therefore not immune to corruption.
"[However] the growth of strong institutions in a democratic framework has led to a significant decline in corruption, and the UK of today performs relatively well in international tables and indices on corruption. For example, the UK was ranked 20th out of 18o in the 2010 Corruption Perceptions Index, although this had declined from nth place five years ago." Today research shows that bribery is relatively unusual in the UK, although in the institutions and sectors in which corruption is a particular risk, bribery is more common--for example in the construction sector and prisons.
"In general," says TI-UK, "corruption in the UK takes forms other than bribery, but is nevertheless damaging. For example, cronyism and conflicts of interest are common forms of corruption ... and as in any country, corruption in the UK has victims. However, they may be less apparent in the UK because they are part of marginalised groups in society or because the corruption operates in intangible ways and so the victims are not immediately clear."
From TI-UK's research, the following categories of corruption are prevalent in the UK: Bribery, collusion, conflict of interest, cronyism or nepotism, fraud, gifts and hospitality, lobbying, money laundering, revolving door, abuse of authority or trading in influence, illegal disclosure of information and misuse of IT systems, and vote rigging. …