I worked as a Director in an LA where the leader and chief executive
are still on police bail accused of corruption and intimidation of
witnesses. Just how many senior local authority figures are under
investigation for criminal activity/corruption and whether this
represents an increasing problem I don’t know . But what I do know is
there is a reluctance to talk about corruption in local government
accompanied by a long standing view that it isn’t an issue.You won’t t
find much in the National papers or on National news, the reports that
do exist are in local news papers and so the wider picture is not
It seems to me that ever since Local Authorities had big outsourcing
contracts to place there have been more reports of senior managers
arrested and on police bail whilst allegations are investigated. It’s
not just finance staff who may think something doesn’t smell right
about the way a big contact was awarded.
To often commercial confidentiality is quoted to avoid answering
detailed questions. If only the leader, chief executive and treasurer
know the detail then even though everything is above board rumours of
prior links, favoured providers and inside information may persist.
Yes the Over View and Scrutiny committee will have looked at the
process and cabinet approved the award but this may simply amount to
members being reassured that the contract was awarded following a
competitive tendering process. Ignoring the fact that some may have
been invited to apply through personal contacts and that the
successful bidder may not be the one who made the lowest bid prompting
questions about what criteria was used to award the contract.
The following quotes from a report into corruption in LA’s by
Transparency International explains the reasons for increased concern
and why the risk of fraud and corruption is greater than it was.
“...the conditions are present in which corruption is likely to
thrive – low levels of transparency, poor external scrutiny, networks
of cronyism, reluctance or lack of resource to investigate,
outsourcing of public services, significant sums of money at play and
perhaps a denial that corruption is an issue at all.
..”...the system of checks and balances that previously existed
to limit corruption has been eroded or deliberately removed. These
changes include the removal of independent public audit of local
authorities, the withdrawal of a universal national code of conduct,
the reduced capacity of the local press and a reduced potential scope
to apply for freedom of information requests. “ Transparency
As recently as 2020 the Transparency International report Permission Accomplished: Assessing corruption
risks in local government planning
, identified five key corruption risks in England:
- Opaque lobbying.
- Bribery and excessive gifts and hospitality.
- Conflicts of interest.
- Abuse of the ‘revolving door’, ie the movement of individuals
between positions of public office and jobs in the private sector,
in either direction.
- Weak oversight.
The report concluded LA’s in general were not doing enough to reduce
the risk of corruption and had inadequate sanctions for councillors
who broke the rules.
There is no agreement about the level of corruption in local
government in the U.K. but but fraud and corruption specialists agree
that the risk has increased significantly over the last ten years.
Anecdotal evidence suggests there are number of on going police
investigations and to my mind most worryingly these seem to be
accompanied by claims of witness interference and intimidation.
Blair Mcpherson former Director, author and blogger www.blairmcpherson.co.U.K.