South Africa urged to 'get tougher' on bribery abroad

24 May 2011

24 May 2011 | Angeline Albert

The South African government should be more proactive in prosecuting cases of bribery, according to a TransparencyInternational (TI) study.

The annual progress report into national implementation of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s (OECD) anti-bribery convention placed South Africa in a group of countries with “low enforcement”. Even among these nations, South Africa undertook relatively few bribery investigations.

The OECD convention requires countries to make it a crime for domestic firms to bribe foreign officials to win business. It has been adopted by 38 nations so far.

In 2010 there were no cases of bribery in other countries before the South African courts, and just five investigations were ongoing. TI’s progress report said criminal and corporate laws in the country were inadequate to hold parent companies responsible for bribery by subsidiaries, agents and third parties.

The South African Directorate for Priority Crime Investigations dropped enquiries into allegations against two companies after evidence was contaminated and said to continue would be a waste of public money.

TI’s report said there were not enough specialist foreign bribery investigators and prosecutors in South Africa and more training should be provided. It also highlighted inadequate co-ordination between police and prosecutors and insufficient awareness in the public and private sectors about the offence of foreign bribery and about protection for whistleblowers as further concerns.

The report said a clear weakness of the country’s legal framework is that the Protected Disclosures Act, which offers protection for whistleblowers, does not extend to auditors, who are not required to report suspected acts of bribery.

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