4 July 2012

Last night’s shake might have been felt across much of New Zealand, but the OECD report about the anti bribery convention published earlier in the day is unlikely to have any comparable media attention. 

The OECD  annual report set out measures taken by member states to comply with enforcement obligations under the Convention against the Bribery of Foreign Officials.  Out of the 38 members, only 14 are reported to have penalised offenders at any stage. New Zealand has always been in the corner of the least active enforcers who have never taken action against bribe payers.

Before the convention came into force in 1999 bribes in order to win foreign contracts were tax deductible in most countries, including New Zealand. Since then, 210 people and 90 businesses have been successfully prosecuted, resulting in 66 prison sentences.

The US, South Korea, Japan, Hungary, France, German and the UK are more enforcement oriented.

The OECD Secretary General has condemned the bribery of foreign public officials in international business transactions as a “…crime that distorts markets, undermines good governance, and, at the end of the day, hurts the world’s most vulnerable.”.

New Zealand is capable of meeting the OECD expectations of Convention members. However the statutory framework to conform to the requirements of the UN Convention Against Corruption can still not be met.  New Zealand is one of very few OECD countries not to be party to UNCAC.

APEC which has a close association with OECD, published two codes in 2009 for officials and for businesses.  Although committed by APEC membership to giving effect to these codes no New Zealand agency has responsibilities to promote awareness and compliance with these codes. Few are aware of the Conduct Principles for Public Officials, and even fewer are likely to have heard of the APEC Anti Corruption code of conduct developed the year Australia was the APEC chair..