The UK is one of the first countries to be evaluated under the Fifth Round of the Council of Europe’s Group of States against Corruption (GRECO). The focus is on preventing corruption and promoting integrity in central governments (top executive functions) and law enforcement agencies.
GRECO welcomes the current framework for individuals with top government functions made of integrity and ethical standards set out in dedicated codes of conduct specifying the behaviour expected of ministers, special advisers and senior officials. However, proactive assessments need to be regularly carried out to identify and mitigate risk areas at central government level, rather than react to problematic situations as they arise. Another weakness resides in the insufficient autonomy and investigative powers of the public bodies overseeing integrity rules and post-employment restrictions in respect of ministers and government officials. In addition, increased transparency is needed in connection with lobbying of government by broadening the existing register for consultant lobbyists to also cover corporate in-house lobbyists and the disclosure of substantial information from meetings held not only with ministers but also special advisers and senior officials.
GRECO acknowledges that there is a developed set of integrity and ethical standards applicable to police officials as well as procedures to assess compliance internally (vetting, declaration of interests, etc.) and to decide on alleged breaches, in particular through the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC). At the same time, it notes the ongoing reform of the IPCC, which is meant to responds to current challenges linked to overly complex and lengthy procedures and the large number of complaints to process. Furthermore, GRECO takes the view that efforts are required to ensure that security vetting of police officers is carried out at regular intervals following their recruitment. Moreover, there ought to be a signposted procedure for police officials to obtain confidential advice in case of ethical dilemma; trained persons of trust should be designated in each police unit for that purpose. Additional efforts should also be made to better link training on integrity and ethical issues with the day-to-day work of police officers. Furthermore, the protection of whistleblowers within the police should be strengthened in order to further encourage the reporting of misconduct.
The implementation of the recommendations addressed to the UK will be assessed by GRECO in 2019 through its compliance procedure.