Is Britain Corrupt
This question is being asked as evidence of sleaze and corruption in all walks of life is mounting. An investigation by Sunday Times and Open Democracy has found that a donation of more than £3 million can get you a seat in the House of Lords. Research by Open Democracy also found that almost 20% of an elite group of leading Tory funders have
received honors after donating to the party. The House of Lords now has a membership of 800 which is more than the European parliament and the second biggest chamber in the world after the Chinese National People’s Congress. The Lords get £300 a day just for attending the proceedings of the House. It costs £120 million a year to run the House of Lords. A cursory look at the Lord’s of Indian origin reveals that Lord Popat made a donation of around £500.000 to the Conservative party. He was given a Peerage in 2011. In 2005 the late Lord Noon lent £250.000 to the Labour Party and soon after that he got a letter confirming his Peerage. Lord Ramy Ranger, owner of the Sun Mark business donated £1.3 million to the Tory party. According to Jeremy Paxman in an article in the Sunday Times dated 14 November 2021, ‘If Britain is truly a democracy, the House of Lords has no place in it.’
There are many other glaring examples of sleaze in Britain today. According to Robert Barrington, Professor of Anti-Corruption Practices at Centre for the Study of Corruption, University of Essex: ‘A system of mutual dependency has been created between donors, politicians, lobbying interests and potential employers which by most standard analysis looks corrupt- it is apparently institutionally corrupt while the individuals are not personally corrupt’.
According to the Independent Parliament Standard Committee, over the past 5 years 17 MPS have claimed over 1.3 million pounds in taxpayer funded rent while collecting thousands of pounds by letting out their properties in the Capital.
The National Audit Office has revealed that the present government has awarded £10.5 billion worth of CoronaVirus related contracts without a competitive tender process. The word, ‘Chumocracy’ which comes from the word, ‘Chum’ or friend, means that MP’s friends, contacts, and acquaintances have been given huge PPE(Personal Protective Equipment) contracts without proper paper process of transparency. Some of the contracts have reportedly cost the taxpayer £800 for every protective overall delivered. At least £2 million worth of contracts have been issued to dormant companies.
More than 200 MPs received earnings from second jobs on top of their annual salary of £81,932. The highest amount earned recently by an MP is £900,000 for jobs outside parliament. While this is not illegal the companies hiring the MPs would be looking to gain from their relationship with someone in a position of power and influence.
The UK may even be the money laundering capital of the world. The US research group Global Financial Integrity estimates that $1.1 trillion a year flows illegally out of poor nations, stolen from them through tax evasion and the transfer of money within corporations. The corporate tax haven index published by the Tax Justice Network shows that three countries that have done most to facilitate this theft are the British Virgin Islands, Bermuda and the Cayman Islands. All of them are British territories. Jersey, a British dependency also is a tax haven. The Financial Times journalist Tom Burgis in his book, ‘ Kleptopia’ writes that wherever the dirty money originates it travels through London.
The ‘Revolving Door’ sleaze is about movement of individuals between positions of public office and jobs in the same sector in the private and voluntary sector. Former Chancellor for Exchequer George Osborne got a job in the private sector paying him £600.000 for working two days a month. Former Prime Minister David Cameron is alleged to have made £7 million for his association with the failed finance company Greensill Capital.
This is just the tip of the iceberg. There is sleaze in Banks rate-fixing, some defense contracts, in the police force and the utility providers like water and gas.
Malpractice by accounting giants, Deloitte, EY, KPMG and PwC is another example of fall in standards. Failure by these accounting firms to identify major UK bankruptcies at the department store BHS, construction firm Carillion and travel company Thomas Cook has resulted in massive job losses.
According to the British Medical Journal dated 30 June 2017, Pharmaceutical companies paid £454 million to ‘work’ with healthcare professionals and healthcare organizations in the UK. Drug companies are paying around £40 million a year to British doctors in service fees, flights, hotel and other travel expenses. These freebees must impact the medicines doctors prescribe. According to the NHS paper, ‘Tackling Fraud, Bribery and Corruption(2018-2021), these Economic Crimes cost the NHS £1.29 billion a year. Some examples where fraud occurs is Patient Fraud, Dental Contract Fraud, GP Fraud, Payroll and Identity Fraud, Procurement and Commission Fraud.
Local Authority fraud costs around £ 2.1 billion. In a report called, ‘Permission Accomplished’ 72 Councilors from 50 different local authorities were on the payroll of lobbyists working in the development industry. Individuals and companies seek to corrupt major planning decisions by giving generous gifts, hospitality, lobbying key members in secretive closed door meetings and hiring serving councilors with inside knowledge to help secure development.
According to the National Fraud Authority(2013), fraud may be costing the UK £52 billion a year.
The real tragedy is that even when gross mismanagement of money comes out in the open, the guilty do not face the justice system. After a few days of screaming headlines in the newspapers everything is forgotten.
In 1995 Lord Nolan set out the seven principles of public service: Selflessness, Integrity, Objectivity, Accountability, Openness, Honesty and Leadership. It looks like the UK has entered a post Nolan era!
Nitin Mehta
15 January 2021

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