This week, David Cameron hosted an Anti-Corruption Summit to step up global action to expose, punish and drive out corruption.
The PM announced that foreign companies that want to buy UK property or bid for central government contracts will have to join a new public register of beneficial ownership information before they can do so. While this is a welcome development and shows the UK’s leadership – this register will be the first of its kind anywhere in the world – beneficial ownership information is not a panacea.
As well as this initiative, the Summit aimed to deal with broader issues relating to corruption including corporate secrecy, government transparency, the enforcement of international anti-corruption laws, and the strengthening of international institutions.
The G20 is particularly well placed to drive this agenda and become a leader in the global fight against corruption. In June 2010 at the Toronto Summit, the G20 Anti-Corruption Working Group’s (ACWG) was set up to make "comprehensive recommendations for consideration by leaders on how the G20 could continue to make practical and valuable contributions to international efforts to combat corruption". Using the existing structures and institutions as well as the current momentum behind anti-corruption, G20 leaders should rise to the challenge and take concrete action.
Chartered accountants have long recognised the impact of corruption on global economic growth and stability. ICAEW has pushed for the G20 to support and encourage consistent adoption of the UN Convention Against Corruption as the global framework for such anti-corruption measures and that a peer-review taskforce should be established to turn good commitment into action.
ICAEW also believes that a strong national accountancy profession can play an important role in tackling the root causes of corruption. Through our capacity building strategy ICAEW helps to foster national professional accountancy organisations which are able to produce, analyse and understand accurate financial information. Better management of public finances and tax collection can play a role in reducing corruption and are crucial steps on the journey towards transparency and sustainable growth.
Ahead of the 12 May Summit, 20 professional bodies – including ICAEW – came together to voice their support for international efforts towards tackling corruption. In this statement, professional bodies highlighted the negative economic and societal impact of corruption and outlined their role in training, educating and supporting the professions to uphold the highest levels of integrity and ethical standards.
By standing united and working together, the public and private sectors have the tools to step-up international cooperation and ultimately thwart corruption. The good words from the London summit must lead to a concerted push to enhance cooperation and concrete action.