Banning corrupt companies from public contracts

What’s the issue?

Corruption is particularly common in public procurement. Of the foreign bribery cases prosecuted under the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention, 57% involved bribes to obtain public contracts. The problem exists in the UK too: 28% of UK companies participating in EU public procurement said in 2017 that corruption prevented them from winning a contract.

Ensuring that corrupt companies cannot bid for public contracts is essential for protecting taxpayers’ money and the integrity of public procurement.

The threat of being excluded from public procurement creates strong incentives for companies to comply with the law and put good policies in place to prevent wrongdoing. Surveys have shown that losing the ability to bid for public contracts is one of the sanctions that companies fear most.

The UK currently has the ability to debar companies that have engaged in corruption from public procurement, but there is little evidence that this happens in practice. In fact, research done at Corruption Watch shows that companies do not even need to declare a conviction under the ‘Failure to Prevent’ provisions of the Bribery Act to procurement authorities

What does Spotlight on Corruption do?

We research and develop recommendations for how the UK’s debarment and suspension regime in public procurement can be robustly implemented:

  • To help deter corruption in the UK and abroad

  • To encourage robust corporate compliance systems

We also work to ensure that UK government support for companies, such as financial support to exporters by the UK’s Export Credit Agency and overseas aid from the Department for International Development, includes effective mechanisms which:

  • Identify and deny contracts to corrupt bidders

  • Effectively pick up warning signs of corruption

As the UK prepares to leave the EU, the UK government will be rethinking UK procurement rules. This is an opportunity for the UK to develop a new framework for excluding corrupt companies from procurement, and we will be urging the government to take the opportunity to do so.

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