Corruption considered a major problem in the UK

Is bribery and abuse of power widespread among the UK police?

Nearly three quarters of people surveyed think corruption is a major problem in the UK, according to a recent poll from the European Commission.

The report compiled feedback from a EU-wide public opinion survey, and found the UK lagging behind many of its European neighbours when it comes to public perception of corruption.

Interviews with around 1300 people across the UK revealed that a third of UK citizens think that bribery or abuse of power is widespread among the police. By comparison the Finnish seem relatively confident in their police force, with just 7% considering abuse of power as an issue for police in Finland.

A string of stories this week on tax avoidance techniques used by top government civil servants has done little to bolster the public’s view of transparency in UK government. Indeed the European Commission’s report finds that 58% of the those asked in the UK see bribery or abuse of power is widespread among politicians.

However, the UK is not the worst contender. Cyprus and Slovenia score high levels of corruption, while an astonishing 98% of those asked in Greece saw corruption as a major problem.

Corruption is not simply a matter of principles, there is also a significant economic impact. The costs incurred by corruption in the EU are around £100 billion per year. Worrying then that the majority of Europeans (70%) think that corruption is unavoidable and that it has always existed.

Important to note is the fact that the report looks at public perception rather than any systematic analysis of actual levels of corruption. In fact the report states that less than a third of Europeans agree that they are personally affected by corruption in their daily live.

The question then arises as to where these perceptions of corruption come from, if not experienced personally. Here the media surely has a role to play in digging out and exposing corruption and generally raising awareness. It would be interesting if the report had considered the source of these perceptions as well.

In many ways the survey is wider than it is deep, with relatively small pools of people being asked in each country. While this certainly provides an interesting insight into how corruption is perceived one cannot help but wonder whether resources would have been better used exploring the actual realities of corruption, though charting examples of bad practice, exploring efficiency of judicial systems, and analysing political processes.

The European Commission’s report on corruption is certainly useful in highlighting the endemic and costly nature of corruption within the EU, but one cannot help but think there are more productive methods that could be employed to really get to the heart of the issue.

Read the full report here.