Corruption and bribery is costing developing countries up to $40 billion (£24.5 billion) each year and is the “thief of economic and social development”.
The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) believes corruption is the “single greatest obstacle” to development globally and firms must take a “zero tolerance attitude”.
UNODC said: “Companies need to take a zero tolerance attitude towards corruption and put policies in place covering issues such as gifts, supply chains and whistleblowers.”
Yury Fedotov, executive director of the UNODC, told a conference of the UN Convention against Corruption in Panama City a “robust and strong coalition” involving governments and business was needed.
“Corruption is the thief of economic and social development; stealing the opportunities of ordinary people to progress and to prosper,” he said.
“We need a robust and strong coalition of governments, business community, civil society, academia and media to resist corruption, and build a culture of prevention and integrity.”
According to UNODC, 50 per cent of Afghans paid a bribe in 2012 while requesting a public service and $3.9 billion (£2.4 billion) was paid to officials.
In general SMEs paid a much higher percentage of their annual revenues in bribes to public officials than large companies, according to UNODC, while migrants at border crossings paid bribes to police ranging from $6.50 to $260 (£3.90 to £159).