Half of anti-corruption signatory nations fail to investigate or prosecute foreign bribery

4 September 2015

More than half of countries signed up to an anti-corruption convention have violated their obligation to combat cross-border bribery, according to a report.

Anti-corruption group Transparency International (TI) said 22 of the 41 signatories to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Anti-Bribery Convention have failed to investigate or prosecute any foreign bribery case during the past four years.

It also said four countries – Norway, Greece, the Netherlands and South Korea – had improved their enforcement efforts and that only one country – Argentina – had regressed.

The 11th annual progress report on enforcement of the convention shows that only four of the 41 signatories – Germany, Switzerland, the UK and the US – are actively investigating and prosecuting companies that bribe foreign officials to get or inflate contracts, or obtain licences and concessions.

Six countries are classified as having moderate enforcement, while another nine have limited enforcement. Twenty countries, including Japan, Russia and Spain (listed in order of share of world exports and adjusted for time under the convention), are doing little or nothing to ensure their companies do not spread corruption, the report said, while two countries could not be measured.

According to TI, a lack of political will and inadequate resources allocated toward enforcement measures and investigations is to blame in countries where there is little or no enforcement. Insufficient sanctions to deter foreign bribery also hamper enforcement efforts in 21 countries, the report said.

Transparency International called for action to be taken with countries that fail to meet the convention obligations.

“By signing up to the OECD anti-bribery convention, governments commit to investigate and prosecute cross-border corruption, yet nearly half of signatory governments are not doing so,” said Transparency International chair José Ugaz. “The OECD must ensure real consequences for such poor performance. Violation of international law obligations to counter cross-border corruption cannot be tolerated.”

Transparency International said that it was crucial that civil society and the private sector started national programmes that address the shortcomings of their governments.

Corruption Watch, which fights corruption in South Africa, noted the country’s poor performance in the OECD report. Although it was one of nine in the “limited enforcement” category, one above the “little or no enforcement” group, Corruption Watch noted that it had not investigated any major foreign bribery cases in the past four years and called for more enforcement.

However, it also noted the progress made in smaller, less prominent cases and said that a three-fold increase in the number of cases picked up in the last year, was evidence of a more proactive approach to uncovering bribery. It also highlighted the report’s recognition of the strengthening of the Anti-Corruption Task Team (ACTT) by the SA government as a progressive step towards complying with the Anti-Bribery Convention.

Corruption Watch executive director David Lewis, said: “While the increase in the number of investigations of allegations of foreign bribery is encouraging, in order to meet our commitments under the Convention we will have to see these investigations resulting in prosecutions and sanctions.”

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