UK Open Government Network
Tim Hughes is coordinator of the UK Open Government Network - a coalition of active citizens and civil society organisations working to make government and other powerful institutions work better for people through enhanced transparency, participation and accountability. http://www.opengovernment.org.uk
Time to get the UK house in order
Corruption distorts decision making and resource allocation in the interests of a few, harming the fabric of society, and destroying trust between citizens and institutions. Openness is critical to uncovering and tackling corruption, in government, companies and civil society. The UK Open Government Network (OGN) is a coalition of active citizens and civil society organisations working to make government and other powerful institutions work better for people through enhanced transparency, participation and accountability. The OGN works in partnership with government to agree the UK’s Open Government Partnership commitments, challenging and holding it to account for its ambition and delivery.
The Panama Papers have illustrated the scale of the global corruption scourge and the UK’s complicity within it. The Anti-Corruption Summit and UK’s 2016-18 OGP National Action Plan present both an opportunity and obligation for the UK to get its own house in order.
First, extend beneficial ownership transparency. Corruption and criminal activity thrives under conditions of secrecy. Investments in the UK can hide the proceeds of illegal activity such as money laundering, bribery and embezzlement. The government should ensure that all companies that own property or participate in delivering government contracts disclose who controls and benefits from their business decisions as open data.
Second, increase lobbying transparency. Despite recent reforms, there is still very little transparency about the scale and nature of lobbying activities in the UK and little incentive to prevent corrupting behaviour by lobbyists. The government should reform the statutory register of lobbyists so that it provides meaningful information about the scale and nature of lobbying in the UK.
Third, open up government contracting. Contracting is an increasingly important means of delivering public services, and a lack of openness means there is insufficient accountability for public funds and increased risk of corruption. The government should fully implement the Open Contracting Partnership’s Global Principles and Data Standard across government and extend Freedom of Information to all public contractors.
Finally, make multinational tax transparent. There is significant public concern about the use of low tax jurisdictions by multinational companies to shift profits and reduce global tax bills. The government should make UK-registered companies that operate beyond the UK publish their taxes, profits and other key economic data for each country where they do business.