NEW RESEARCH from Transparency International reveals that nearly a third of all new jobs taken by former ministers and senior officials had a significant overlap with their previous brief, raising serious questions over how potential conflicts of interest are managed in Westminster.
Analysis of data from the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments (ACOBA), the body responsible for regulating the ‘revolving door’ between the public and private sector, reveals a total of 604 post-government roles were taken up by 217 high-ranking civil servants, special advisers and ministers between January 2017 and June 2022. Of these 604 roles, 177 (29 per cent) had an overlap with the former policy area of the minister or official.
A breakdown by industry shows this is most prevalent in the defence sector, with 81 per cent of post-public roles (39 out of 48) overlapping with former officeholders’ previous briefs. In the education sector, 58 per cent (18 out of 31) of roles were related to previous policy responsibilities.
Managing revolving door risks in Westminster provides an in-depth look at the movement of individuals between positions of public office and jobs in the private or voluntary sector and the associated corruption risks.
These would include officials doing favours for certain organisations in the hope of securing a future job, making use of confidential information for the benefit of their new employers, or using previous contacts to secure privileged access to policymakers. These risks are heightened when former officials go on to work for organisations in the same sector as their governmental responsibility or with consultant lobbyists.
Further analysis of ACOBA data from January 2017 and June 2022 reveals:
- Nearly 10 per cent (19 out of 217) of those seeking advice from ACOBA did so in relation to taking up roles with a consultant lobbyist firm.
- A quarter of all roles taken up by former officials had job titles that were advisory (151 out of 604 roles) such as ‘advisor’ or ‘Member of the Advisory Board’. While these positions may not involve engaging in lobbying directly, they could involve providing strategic advice to others on how to try and influence government and parliament.
To effectively manage corruption risks and provide an effective deterrent against potential abuse of the revolving door, Transparency International UK calls on the government to:
- Replace ACOBA, the body currently responsible for regulating the revolving door, with an independent body that has its role enshrined in law, has the ability to introduce contractual obligations and the powers to sanction wrongdoing.
- Ban ministers and senior officials from lobbying on behalf of private organisations for five years after leaving office and consider extending this further for the most senior roles in government such as Prime Minister and Chancellor.
- Extend the scope of the Business Appointment Rules so they prohibit appointments for two years where the applicant has had significant and direct responsibility for policy, regulation or the awarding of contracts relevant to their new employer.
* Read the paper, Managing revolving door risks in Westminster here.
* Source Transparency International UK