'Lack of enforcement jeopardises South Africa's fight against foreign bribery'

Will Green is news editor of Supply Management
18 March 2014

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18 March 2014 | Will Green

South Africa must take “urgent steps” to investigate and prosecute foreign bribery since it emerged no cases have been prosecuted since the country joined a convention against the practice seven years ago.

The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) said the country signed its Anti-Bribery Convention in 2007 but the “lack of enforcement jeopardises South Africa’s fight against foreign bribery”.

“The four ongoing investigations – out of only 10 allegations that have surfaced to date – are also far from reaching the prosecution stage,” said the OECD.

“The need for enforcement is imperative, especially as South African companies are increasingly operating abroad, often in sectors with a high risk of foreign bribery. There are also concerns that prosecutions may be hampered by political and economic considerations.”

In a report the OECD’s Working Group on Bribery called on South Africa to “increase its efforts” in detecting, investigating and prosecuting foreign bribery, to ensure national economic interests do not influence investigations, to increase resources to law enforcement authorities, and to protect whistleblowers.

In a separate report on Chile the OECD said the country had made “positive efforts” to implement the convention but there had been no foreign bribery convictions.

“Chile did not sufficiently investigate several of the six foreign bribery allegations that have surfaced since 2001,” said the OECD. “Chilean embassies failed to alert prosecutors to these cases, which were widely reported in the foreign media. Only one of the cases has been detected through domestic sources. Chile should improve its investigative and detection efforts.”

The Working Group recommended Chile “clarify its corporate liability law and the system for certifying corporate offence prevention models”, improve coordination and intelligence gathering, “raise awareness that prosecutors and police should not be influenced by economic, diplomatic and other inappropriate considerations”, and “ease bank secrecy protection for foreign bribery investigations”.

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