UK’s DfID launches corruption initiative

23 Oct 18

The UK government has called on countries across the world to compile lists of companies with anonymous owners to help crack down on corruption. 

The UK’s Penny Mordaunt urged nations to create a new “global norm” by publishing who owns the companies that are registered in their country, at the International Anti-Corruption Conference in Copenhagen yesterday.  

Mordaunt, secretary of state for international development, said: “Corruption destroys governments, economies and public services by taking money away from society and lining the pockets of ruthless criminals.

“That’s why we are bolstering our work on tackling corruption both here at home and in the most fragile states in the world, giving these criminals nowhere to hide.”

‘Secret companies’ – companies where the identity of the owner is unknown – are a major facilitator of corruption, fraud, tax evasion, organised crime and terrorist financing,” the UK’s Department for International Development said.

Having a register of these ‘secret companies’ can help track the money and combat corruption, DfID added.

In May this year, the UK government backed plans to force Britain’s overseas territories to adopt public registers of company ownerships by the end of the decade.

The cost of corruption worldwide is estimated to be more than 2% of GDP and the World Bank estimates that over $1 trillion is paid in bribes each year.

At the conference, which brings together thousands of people from a hundred countries, the government of Ukraine will sign an agreement with Open Ownership, a DfID-funded organisation that is working to build a global register of beneficial ownership.

Over five million companies are already on the register. The Open Ownership initiative helps governments, such as those of Nigeria, Ghana and Kenya, to implement pledges to publish their own national registers of corporate ownership.

Additionally, DfID announced £2.6m in support of the International Budget Partnership, which reports on government’s budget transparency around the world, and £2m to the International Organization of Supreme Audit Institutions Development Initiative, which works to strengthen state audit institutions.

The UK government called on other countries to follow their lead and push for registers of beneficial ownerships in their country.

Opening the conference, the Danish prime minister Lars Loekke said: “A country that cannot trust the integrity of its institutions, is a country in trouble.”

Danish minister for development cooperation Ulla Tornaes also told the conference: “We all know that combatting corruption is absolutely vital - and we all know that we need to work together to succeed.

“Corruption is a global problem that requires global solutions,” she said.

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