7 September 2012

Transparency International has published a report about enforcement of the OECD Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials – the Anti Bribery Convention. This is its eighth annual “progress” report.
The 39 Member states are required to make foreign bribery a crime and are subject to periodic review of their implementation by other Members. Nine to ten country reviews are issued each year. ( new Zealand was last reviewed in 2006.)  The annual TI review is independent of the OECD and based on reports from its national chapters. Countries are classified in four enforcement categories this year: Active, Moderate, Little and No enforcement.
The report indicates a rising rate of prosecutions and more serious outcomes for offenders. There were 144 new prosecutions in 2011, with a further 286 matters still under investigation.

“The growing momentum behind anti-bribery enforcement is making it harder to get away with the use of graft to win business” according to TI. This perspective is supported by data showing that 27% of business executives surveyed believe that bribery by a competitor resulted in direct costs to their business in the last 12 months.

A criticism is that of Member states, only seven seem to have an active concern about enforcing bribery law, and half have not yet prosecuted any instances of cross-border corruption, A particular concern is the lobbying that is underway in a number of jurisdictions to weaken statutory provisions.

United States and German prosecutors have been the most active over the last year.  Australia, Canada and Austria are recognised in the report for conducting their first major case in 2011. Conversely Japan and France, as large exporters, are criticised for inactivity.

In the report, New Zealand is lumped among No Enforcement countries, together with Czech Republic, Estonia, Greece, Ireland, Israel, Poland and South Africa. There is recognition of measures by the Ministry of Justice to establish an anti bribery profile through an August 2011 paper on “Strengthening New Zealand’s Resistance to Organised Crime”, but the TI concern is that “…It appears that awareness within New Zealand of foreign corruption prohibitions and risks is low. The Serious Fraud Office and other agencies should support public-awareness efforts and encourage the reporting of suspected foreign bribery, as it is understood the Serious Fraud Office and police have received few, if any, such complaints.” Of course New Zealand is a very small fish with on,y 0.2% of World exports.

A Transparency International NZ media statement about the report indicates that New Zealand contribution was made by Fiona Tregonning (Bell Gully), and Aaron Lloyd (Minter Ellison Rudd Watts).