Bribery loopholes blight UK accounting

UK accounting requirements have suffered a barrage of criticism in an OECD report which exposed a slew of potential loopholes for bribery and corruption in the UK system, writes Nicholas Neveling.

The OECD report, which focused on bribery and corruption in foreign transactions, said there were big question marks over the ‘adequacy of UK accounting requirements to prevent and detect bribery of foreign public officials’.

The report added that there was a ‘failure to consider the existence of possible accounting offences linked to bribery’ in the UK, and questioned whether there was sufficient case law in place to punish accounting offences linked to bribery.

With worldwide bribery in government procurement estimated at $400bn (£210bn) annually, and the UK ranked as one of the three biggest financial centres in the world, the OECD’s findings are a profound embarrassment.

But Jon Grant (pictured), executive director of the Auditing Practices Board, said the implementation of anti-money laundering legislation in the UK had provided a structure for cracking down on bribery and corruption.

‘Money laundering legislation requires auditors to report any suspected proceeds from crime, which include bribery and corruption. Auditors suspecting bribery are expected to report it,’ he said.

Grant added that the APB had prepared a practice note on money laundering, which provided guidance for auditors on how to handle bribery and corruption issues. The OECD also pointed to the increase in the audit threshold to £5.6m as a possible weakness. ‘The lead examiners question whether this threshold is adequate to trigger external audit of companies with substantial overseas operations,’ it said.

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