A EUROPEAN committee is urging the UK Government to tackle shortcomings in its procedures to tackle corruption in central government and law enforcement agencies.

The Council of Europe’s 49-member Group of States against Corruption (Greco) said UK authorities should be more proactive in tackling dishonesty in government rather than reacting to problems when they arise.

In a report published today, Greco said two advisory bodies on the conduct of ministers and senior officials could benefit from being considerably more autonomous from government.

It argues they should also have the power to investigate and sanction breaches of codes of conduct on their own initiative.

Greco said lobbying was generally well regulated by European standards, but the list of ministerial meetings with lobbyists should state precisely what they are about, and authorities should consider expanding the register of consultants to include in-house corporate lobbyists.

“It appears that often standards and advisory bodies pertaining to the conduct of ministers and senior government officials have been created in reaction to specific problems rather than on the basis of risk assessments identifying areas where tighter control was needed,” said the report.

It highlights the need to adopt “a holistic and more proactive approach and entrust a mechanism with the task of undertaking risk analyses to inform future steps to mitigate corruption risk areas”.

The report also identified weak spots in law enforcement that required action from UK authorities, despite it having standards and structures in place.

It said the regular vetting of staff after joining Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) in London appeared to be “inconsistently and tardily done” – a weakness that could potentially be exploited by criminal organisations trying to influence police staff.

“Initial vetting is systematically carried out at recruitment stage but re-vetting after joining the MPS, which should be carried out at fixed intervals, appears to be inconsistently and tardily done, by reason of insufficient qualified staff,” the report continued.

“This weakness of the system may lend itself to being exploited by criminal organisations attempting to influence police staff, as has reportedly already been the case, and the report therefore calls for this issue of re-vetting to be addressed.”

There was also no clearly defined procedure for officers to seek advice in the case of ethical dilemmas.

It added that the ongoing reform of the system for dealing with police misconduct would have to resolve its complexity and the large volume of complaints.

The report also called for authorities to strengthen protections for police whistleblowers: “There appears to be insufficient guarantees to protect those within the forces coming forward to denounce the wrongdoings of colleagues.”

In a series of recommendations to the UK authorities, Greco said they should make further efforts “to ensure that training on integrity and ethics be better linked to the day-to-day work of police staff and be practice-oriented”, and added: “That trained persons of trust be appointed within the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) and the National Crime Agency (NCA) – as well as all police forces and other law enforcement agencies – in order to provide confidential advice on ethical and integrity matters.

The Government should also consider “the possibility of imposing post-employment restrictions on all police officers and staff leaving the Metropolitan Police Service”.