News & what's on - Written by on Thursday, September 26, 2013 3:24 - 0 Comments

Scotland aims to stamp out public corruption with new unit

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By Stacy Keen, Associate, Pinsent Masons, Glasgow

In an attempt to crack down on corruption in the public sector Police Scotland, the body with responsibility for policing across Scotland, has established a ‘Counter Corruption Unit’.

Established with the remit to strengthen and improve the safeguards in place to protect public sector staff, assets, and funds from corrupt activities, the new unit is said to be the first of its kind in the United Kingdom.

The unit will work across the Scottish public sector to make it more difficult for organised crime gangs to target public bodies, such as local authorities, the NHS and Police Scotland itself. The new unit will offer advice on issues such as procurement, planning and third party contracts to assist public bodies in strengthening their existing procedures.

Sir Stephen House, Police Scotland’s first Chief Constables, says:

“This will be a dedicated resource, the first of its kind in UK policing, and breaks new ground in seeking to work in partnership with all public sector bodies to prevent and strengthen organisational resilience to corruption. At the same time, it will offer a specialist investigation capability which will enhance public confidence in the integrity of public services and servants, protect public finances and keep people safe.

The actions of the few who engage in corrupt activity have a disproportionate impact on public confidence and the reputation of any public organisation. At a time of increasing budget constraints on the public purse, it’s important we do all we can to protect the public sector and our communities.

The move to a single police service in Scotland has presented us with an ideal opportunity to introduce consistency and co-ordination on a national scale but also the chance to work with our partners in the public sector to strengthen the barriers against corruption.”

Sue Bruce, chief executive of the City of Edinburgh Council said that she welcomed the creation of the new unit:

“While cases of corruption are rare, it is right that we should work together to ensure the highest possible standards of best practice for Scotland’s public sector organisations and it is helpful to know that specialist support is available should we need it”.

The new unit will be headed by Detective Chief Superintendent Russell Dunn with Detective Superintendent Sean Scott leading the public sector investigations.

Det Ch Supt Dunn said: “Our intention is to strengthen public sector resilience against corrupt practices and criminal infiltration. We will advise on the design of robust organisational strategies, structures and policies to mitigate corruption risks.

“That will involve developing appropriate protocols for joint working and information sharing to support prevention and investigation.

“The threat to the wider public sector is primarily driven by the functions of an organisation where procurement, planning, licensing, service contracts and other financial – and non-financial – benefits offer potentially fertile opportunities for criminal coercion and threats.”

Fifteen people, including four former employees of City of Edinburgh Council, were charged last year after possible fraud and corruption was uncovered in connection with building works overseen by the Council.

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