Are Transparency International wearing rose coloured specs?

Are Transparency International wearing rose coloured specs?

I find it hard to believe that Transparency International, the world's premier anti-corruption campaigning organisation have marked the UK as having improved on 2020 in their most recent Corruption Perception Index and have the UK as within the top 15 countries. So I ask why might this be? This article looks at the issue of lags, TI's focus on the public sector, press bias via ownership, and some private sector scandals. I finish by asking, if they mark the UK so well despite the evidence, how much worse are the others?, ...

Ukraine, war & Britain

Ukraine, war & Britain

I wrote a piece two days ago, focusing on what UK  citizens and residents of good will should do about the war in Ukraine but feel I need to clarify.

I congratulate the Ukrainian people and their armed forces for the defence they have put up. It proves to me that the UK, because that is what I know , was fooled by the hybrid war conducted by Russia who weakened the UK’s will to resist its imperial adventures and defend its own democracy. Russia funded the Brexit campaign and much of the Tory Party; Brexit is a massive weakening of the European self defence capability as we can see by the EU’s speed in responding to the Russian invasion compared with the UK’s pedestrian pace. Russia’s propaganda presented us with a view as to the invincibility and overwhelming numeric superiority of the Russian Army.  This imbued in some British people, including me, a moral cowardice. This cowardice, equivalent to appeasement in the 30’s will have been reinforced by the moral subversion of NATO due to its US led adventurism in the Middle East.

NATO is the only alliance that can act but to call it a great achievement is hubristic and sectarian overstatement. Today’s NATO is not the same organisation as it was thirty years ago. The need for NATO will be proven if Sweden and Finland seek to join but all its fans need to recognise that the US is not the reliable and generous ally it once was. Trump explicitly questioned the US commitment to Article 5 and Biden’s withdrawal from Afghanistan was not agreed by NATO.

The Ukrainian state is not pretty, it has the 3rd worst record in front of the European Court of Human Rights, and is judged by the EIU democracy index as a Hybrid State. In terms of both metrics the Russian record is worse. NATO member Turkey is the second most frequent breacher of the ECHR. But the Russian invasion is a war crime which it seems will now be investigated by the ICC. Good!

Throughout this we must not forget the brave Russians who are expressing their opposition to the war.

At home, a government that speaks for me must

  • Implement effective sanctions
  • Set up effective and generous refugee acceptance programmes
  • Purge itself of Russian funded corruption
  • Develop a defence policy that defends us against real threats not fake ones.

I would add that we should rejoin the EU but that will not happen until it ceases to be a partisan issue, however this will take much less than 50 years. …

What is to done about the Ukraine in the UK

What is to done about the Ukraine in the UK

Writing a piece on the invasion of the Ukraine is taking longer than I expected, the big issue is now quite simple, Russia should not have invaded the Ukraine; it’s a war crime and yet the response of British politicians has been, on the whole juvenile, selfish, narcissistic or cowardly. The rest of this article, overleaf looks at the glacial pace of the imposition of sanctions, the corrupt receipt of Russian money, the dreadful defence policies, and a failure to welcome refugees. In addition, I mention the need to offer solidarity to the nascent Russian ant-war movement. I also call out Starmer's über factional and misplaced response. Use the "Read More ..." button for the rest of the article ...

A short history of the British constitution

housesofparliament

How have the British ‘improved’ their constitution over the last 100 years. I have a look but conclude with how the Government is riding roughshod over what puny safeguards exist. I look at parliamentary sovereignty, suffrage, the parliament acts, the impact of the EU on the constitution, human rights act, the House of Lords and supreme court, and finally the Prime Minister. I conclude with a sad cry to do better.

Impunity and contempt in Government.

Impunity and contempt in Government.

Is it worse under Johnson? The short answer would seem to be “Yes”. None of the controls on Governments are law, they are all based on conventions and Parliamentary Sovereignty means that they are not permanent. (The recent habit of previously prohibited retrospective legislation and emergency parliamentary/legislative schedules also strengthens a Govt. and thus a Prime Minister’s hand.) But, it’s the shamelessness of Johnson and his Government which is the danger to democracy.

Respect for Parliament and politicians had been damaged by the expenses’ crisis but the Brexit referendum and its aftermath further damaged Parliament’s political legitimacy often at the hands of MPs who showed extreme cowardice in the face of the tumbrils pulled by UKIP’s donkeys.

The British people were fortunate that the decision to order the longest prorogue in modern times was able to be overturned by the courts even though the government argued that they didn’t have the power. Parliament also ripped up a further control when the SNP1 voted in 2019, to agree an election for reasons of sectarian advantage and fatally undermined the fixed term parliament act.

Since the election, there have been number of breaches of the ministerial code, involving money, influence or vote buying. This article from Yorkshire Bylines, dated March 20, details breaches by 11 cabinet members. There have also been an egregious corruption of the procurement process where they are now being pursued by the good law project, with the crowning glory the pursuit of the £37bn spent on a track and trace system that has never worked. The ‘levelling up’ initiative, once called Regional Policy is also the subject of both controversy and legal review being characterised as pork barrel politics.

 The current troubles aka partygate were started by Johnson and the Tory Whips’ attempts to rewrite what limited controls remained to save Owen Paterson, once the MP for Shropshire North from sanction for lobbying. The list of breaches is so long that Transparency International are calling for the Ministerial Code to be made law. This government has also has a series of breaches by most publicly Cummings and Hancock, of covid safety regulations culminating in today’s heavily redacted Grey Report, cataloguing 20 inappropriate events while the public could not visit relatives in care.

This impunity is reflected in policy making by Priti Patel as Home Secretary, not only did May kick her out for off-piste foreign policy and breaches of the ministerial code, she was taken to tribunals for bullying and the Home Office is being sued by its own watchdog for breaching the withdrawal agreement as it applied to EU citizens in the UK. This impunity was also shown in the trade negotiations led by Lord Frost with the threats to break the agreement in contradiction to international law and the threats to void the Northern Ireland Protocol.

There is a culture of impunity running through this government, underpinned by Parliamentary Sovereignty, a fake definition of national sovereignty and a party majority in the Commons reinforced by what would seem an unwillingness of the police or other regulators to investigate crimes committed by govt. ministers.

We have no basic law nor it would seem today a police force willing to pursue wrong doing in Whitehall.

ooOOOoo

This was originally written as part of a longer article, but I have decided it doesn’t fit in that article and so here we are.


[1] The SNP gave Johnson a 50% majority in the House, and were quickly followed by the LibDems and then Labour split with many of them voting for the election. There is an alternative view that the FTPA transferred the power to call an election from the PM to parliament and parliament just decided not to go through the vote of confidence, the requirement for a supermajority and a waiting period. …

A step too far?

A step too far?

Johnson’s in a bit of bother, and it’s not his Johnson this time, at least as far as we know. The outrage that has the media’s attention is that he is accused of having said, “No more fucking lockdowns – let the bodies pile high in their thousands!” This is disgusting but almost as bad is the fact that this has been kept hidden for over 6 months.

When you add to this, the Greensill Fund affair and Cameron’s lobbying, where it seems the Tories are ready to let Cameron hang out to dry, the failed and extortionate priced track and trace system (£37bn and counting), shipping contract to a company without ships, the lobbying for favoured tax status and contract for ventilators to a company that’s never made them, the failure to acquire PPE for NHS staff and many more. To this we can add the creation of a No 10 press suite which they no longer plan to use, the murky finances of the redecoration of the No 11 flat, and the resurrection of the Arcuri affair (narf narf), this Govt. is the epitome of corrupt although it doesn’t seem to have come through in Transparency International’s corruption perceptions index yet, although they identify the pandemic as a major global threat for corruption. For more on corruption and impunity see, “Corruption Britain has reached new heights under Boris Johnson’s government” at the New Statesman (£). …

Technology lessons

Technology lessons

It seems the police have found insufficient evidence to prosecute Boris Johnson for misconduct in a public office with respect to his alleged relationship with Jennifer Arcuri and decisions taken by the Mayor's Office to support her business. His day-time visits to her home, presumably during working hours, were, it seems, for 'technology lessons'. It seems that some emails seem to be unavailable, possibly in contravention of the Mayor's statutory record keeping rules and duties. The rest of this blog looks at alternative legal approaches to investigating if wrong doing has occurred. It looks at how good good IT Security controls are needed to allow essential audit questions to be answered.

Fighting Corruption

Fighting Corruption

Sadly I have been looking to see what’s being said about Corruption and Anti-Corruption. I made a wiki post which includes some links on management strategy, which includes an article from McKinsey’s Journal which offers a brief taxonomy of corrupt practices, this is augmented by Transparency International’s tool kit, to which I link. TI also note that, “The UK Bribery Act, which was passed in 2010, introduces an offence of corporate failure to prevent bribery.”. There are also some specific action plans inc. current advice from the MoJ. Interestingly, to me, the action plans share many ideas from risk management practices and IT Security controls that I have been working with for many years, and that having a robust programme of controls is the only defence against the aforementioned corporate crime.

Construct a taxonomy, develop controls, measure the effectiveness of the controls and fix those that are broken.

This costs money and time, and companies may lose business because of it. No-one says it’s easy.

I have now made a post on my linkedin blog, which while repeating some of that I say here, looks at the MOJ Guidance and their six principles and offers some important definitions of pertaining to bribery.  I highlight the concept of ‘improper behaviour’ from within the legislation. …

Losing one’s way

Over the last few days, the Guardian has broken the story of the illegal use of personal data in the US 2016 general election. We are now waiting for the trail to come back to UK politics, in particular, the use of Cambridge Analytica (or one of its associates) by the alliance of Leave organisations. The data was stolen, well acquired, from Facebook, but it seems they knew for two years and there is some argument as to their corporate complicity. Their Chief Information Security Officer has been on the way out since the end of last year and some stories suggest it’s because he argued for greater openness in co-operating with the enquiries into Russian state sourced fake news.

Citizens, their representatives and law makers have been arguing that IT companies should have a duty to report security breaches to law enforcement and the EU is introducing such a law now; such Laws exist in California which is where Facebook is headquartered. We should also note that their duty to protect their users personal data is governed by the US privacy laws, the now defunct EU Safe Harbour agreement and its successor, the Privacy Shield. In addition, the US signed up to the 7 Principles of Data Potection when first declared by the OECD.  It is a fact however, that many US business executives (and their employees) consider the European Data Protection laws as non-tariff import barriers, not that this should matter but I have no doubt that considerable time has been spent in determining where the line between legality and illegal activity stands.

There are several factors in the US political culture which often makes it hard for the US to obey foreign laws (and their own), one of them being, that they often have difficulty in legitimising their own laws and law enforcement.

This is, to me, summarised in the 10th Amendment, one of the Bill of Rights amendments to the US Constitution.

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

There is a beauty to the sentiment and an economy to the words, but they are a fundamental challenge to the rule of law. (Is this a bit extreme?) The Citizen’s United ruling, which upheld the citizen’s free speech rights for an association, can be taken to mean that corporations have citizenship rights. US Laws are hard to make and often Laws re challenged in court often to the Supreme Court asking for laws to be struck down as unconstitutional. The upshot of all this is that politicaly citizens can take a view on whether a law is legal in the knowledge that if they win, unlike in Europe & the Antipodes where the Government’s have majorities in their legislatures and will rewrite the laws, they get to do what they want.

The US tradition of a people’s access to justice, showcased by the Judge Judy show is also admirable, if a bit bizarre to UK eyes but it is another dimension of the US commitment to rights and the rule of law; they’e just a bit weaker in understanding collective and inalienable rights, such as privacy (except from Government).

We also have the growing dichotomy between companies Legal and Compliance teams, with Legal advising under the protection of client/attorney privilege in the best interests of their clients and Compliance having a duty to the public advising how not to break the Law.

One can see how US Companies might lose their way. It’s nothing to be proud of though, the UK route to corruption is just shorter as currently viewing the C4 news program on Cambridge Analytica will show.

Do politicians understand? They may not understand the details of the tech., but they do understand Human Rights law and the rule of law, although some of the House of Commons are to quote the shadow chancellor “Fucking Useless”, and the select committees could do with better advisors;  the purpose of the witnesses is to deliver this advice and knowledge, but you need to know the questions and understand the answers. You need a nose for a cover up and to know the 2nd question. …

Corruption

I was just checking out Transparency International’s web site and in order to get a handle on what the numbers mean I checked out the UK pages. ; the UK is assessed as the 10th= least corrupt country in the World, however when you read what we i.e. UK Citizens (or maybe residents think, a different story emerges.

ti-ukopinionsnip

Nothing does well, but Politics, Parliament, Business and the Media have a particularly bad reputation. The Judiciary at 2.8 does better than most …