Government accused of ‘backsliding’ in new anti-corruption plan

Civil society organisations have accused the UK government of ‘watering down’ an anti-corruption plan being published today.

  • The UK National Action Plan for Open Government is a series of policy commitments developed by the government and civil society to improve accountability and transparency.
  • It is a mandatory part of the UK’s membership of an international anti-corruption body called the Open Government Partnership (OGP).

    Several civil society organisations have reacted angrily to the plan following last minute removals of key promises, and a failure to engage in areas of reform, including public standards and freedom of information.

    Leaders also warn the UK could be asked to leave the 78 country-strong OGP despite being a founding member, as it is currently ‘under review’ following failures to reach the required standard in the previous two plans.

    Kevin Keith, Chair of the UK Open Government Network, who coordinate civil society’s input into the plan, said: “Ineffective lobbying laws, unlawful procurement practises, and investigations into breaches of the ministerial code, have eroded trust when lives have depended on it.

  • “This plan could have demonstrated the government is serious about rebuilding that trust. Yet repeated requests to the government for a commitment on public standards were ignored, many commitments have been watered down including on corruption, and some have been taken out completely. It’s contemptuous.”

    The reaction follows the recent resignation of the Minister with responsibility for open government, Lord Agnew, due to the government’s ‘lamentable’ record on Covid fraud, warnings from the Chair of the Committee on Standards in Public Life that the UK could become ‘could become a corrupt country if we don’t attend to ensuring that we maintain standards,’ and an ongoing investigation into parties during lockdown.

    Commitments in the plan range from how the government spends money and how citizens can challenge decisions made by algorithms, to anti-corruption and illicit finance.

    Groups argue that many of these commitments were watered down unilaterally by the government just days before submission, including the removal of a commitment to a register of overseas entities owning property in the UK.

  • Last year the prime minister declared that he would ‘bring more openness to the purchase of properties in the UK by overseas entities’ at the Summit for Democracy.