THE BLOG
08/10/2013 11:14 BST | Updated 08/12/2013 05:12 GMT

UK Corruption: A Change in the Air?

This week, the Home Secretary launched the new National Crime Agency, along with a Serious and Organised Crime Strategy.

Only last week, Transparency International published the Anti-Corruption Scorecard - an assessment of the UK's performance on a range of corruption indicators. If the Government delivers on its new strategy, the scorecard will soon look dated.

Perhaps for the first time in a UK government strategy, corruption merits its own section. Transparency International has long claimed that the UK is complacent about corruption in the UK, as opposed to what happens overseas. This document acknowledges that corruption happens in the UK, pinpoints some key areas such as prisons and police integrity, and promises to examine the case for better public reporting mechanisms and whistleblowing procedures.

This time a year ago, Transparency International also asked the question 'Does the UK need an anti-corruption agency'? This strategy does not provide the answer. But it does make the case that Whitehall needs to be more joined up in its approach to corruption. We have seen such moves before, when the Government created the position of Anti-Corruption Champion a decade ago, and they fizzled away with successive changes of minister. However, it is a necessary part of such a strategy and a significant statement of intent.

Last month, Police Scotland launched a new public sector Counter-Corruption Unit - again, acknowledging the problems of domestic corruption and the need for a more coordinated approach.

An emerging theme in much of the UK Government approach is the link between corruption and organised crime. That is certainly an important part of the corruption story in the UK, but not the whole story.

One quirk in the strategy is that there now appear to be two people in charge of corruption in the UK - the Home Secretary and the Anti-Corruption Champion, currently Ken Clarke. That is two more people than there were six months ago, but is raises the question about who is ultimately responsible.

It is an important document, and Transparency International welcomes it.