Anti-bribery and corruption in 2016: the increasingly global context

Robert Barrington, executive director of Transparency International opened our debate on the international anti-corruption landscape with a summary of the global picture.

The Changing Landscape

o The Tightening net of anti-corruption legislation

While much has been done to strengthen anti-corruption legislation around the globe, enforcement remains a problem. Of the 41 signatories to the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention, only four are considered to be active enforcers: the UK, US, Germany and Switzerland, with six engaged in moderate enforcement – a slight improvement according to the 2015 Transparency International Progress Report on Assessing Enforcement of the OECD Convention.

o Open Data – Transparency

Countries are coming under increasing pressure to make public data open, free and available for distribution. While this has long been considered important for economic growth and accountability, it is increasingly being acknowledged as an important tool in the fight against corruption. The UK government is a signatory of the Open Data Charter, signed by the G8 leaders in June 2013, and is promoting greater transparency on the global stage.

o Social Media and Citizen Empowerment

The advent of social media has been a game changer for anti-corruption campaigners. It provides easy reporting avenues, can motivate those wishing to protest against corruption and is a barometer of public opinion, used to express anger and outrage at corrupt regimes – Brazil being a current example.

o Political Activity
The discourse around corrupt political systems and regimes is becoming increasingly vocal, with businesses

also wishing to engage in order to tackle the problem.

o Big State Campaigns

A number of states are actively engaged in campaigns against corruption. High profile examples include China’s “tigers” and the “flies” campaign to root out corrupt officials and the judiciary of Brazil overturning decades of impunity to charge political leaders, captains of industry and lobbyists with bribery and other forms of corruption.

o Emergence of the UK and London

The UK is emerging as a major player in driving the anti-corruption agenda with London in particular developing as a centre of expertise in the development of effective ABC systems.

The Challenges
o Holding Individuals to account

Despite the tightening net, there are still a large number of individuals and organisations not being properly held to account: FIFA and Putin were given as examples.

o Creating a level playing field
While enforcement remains inconsistent, the playing field isn’t level, which appears to punish good corporations and reward the corrupt.

o The Transparency Dividend

How can the discourse around corporates and anti-corruption become more positive? What can be done to ensure businesses gain a commercial advantage from transparency and effective ABC systems? Governments could be leading the way here by insisting that beneficial ownership is declared as part of any government tender and debarring those organisations found guilty of misconduct.

o Keeping ABC on the agenda

While much has been done to strengthen anti-corruption systems and processes, one of the challenges for governments and organisations such as TI is to ensure that preventing corruption stays upmost on the corporate agenda.

UK Government Anti-Corruption Summit

o The Prime Minister’s Anti-Corruption Summit is due to take place in May o The agenda is ambitious covering:

  • Corruption prevention
  • Creating a level playing field
  • Ending impunity
  • Empowering citizens to report
  • Securing justice
  • Practical tools

The Debate Perspective: points to consider at the UK anti-corruption summit

o Many corporates still have work to do to embed robust anti-corruption practices and procedures. Consequently making further changes to legislation could be unhelpful for some organisations.

o Greater enforcement was called for. Too many organisations are still operating in markets where corrupt practices are tolerated, making it difficult to compete.

o Governments should consider cutting funding to corrupt regimes.

o A global standard for anti-corruption legislation was called for to create a level playing field.

o Corporates should be given time to raise standards within their third parties/the supply chain. Otherwise there is a danger that multinationals will just work with each other at the expense of many smaller organisations.

o Smaller organisations should be better supported to raise standards giving them a competitive edge that would help win contracts – it can be hard to put effective procedures in place with limited resources. Some leniency would be welcomed to enable standards to be raised.

o Businesses called for incentives/rewards for ethical behaviour/conduct. Governments should lead by example using procurement to reward companies with high ethical standards, transparency of ownership and enforcing the debarment of those found guilty of misconduct.

o The regulatory framework around beneficial ownership could be strengthened to improve transparency.

o If only 4 of the 41 signatories of the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention are considered to be active enforcers, governments need to consider what can be done to encourage more enforcement?

o Governments need to be aware of the unintended consequences of doing the right thing: pulling out of corrupt countries could deprive citizens of essential items such as medicines. What support can and should be given at inter-governmental level to avoid this?

The GoodCorporation View

Those organisations that have invested in developing and testing robust anti-corruption procedures should be rewarded for their efforts. This should begin at government level by introducing ethical standards into the government tender process and insisting on mandatory debarment for misconduct and breaches of regulation.

The views expressed at the proposed business day ahead of the UK Anti-Corruption Summit should be used to inform the discussion with governments. GoodCorporation will continue to call for greater legislative enforcement to ensure that its clients and others working hard to embed good practice will benefit commercially from their actions.