28 October 2014

Last week,  Transparency International  published its annual assessment of the extent to which the 41 OECD Member states have enforced the Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions (OECD Anti Bribery Convention).  This year’s report has few differences from previous years.  The challenge is for States to take action against  companies based within their jurisdiction that make illegal payments to trade in other countries.  This is shown by nine of the Member States that are also part of the G20, which have been assessed as having taken “Little or No Enforcement”.  A few of the leading economic powers give some credibility to Anti Bribery Convention obligations through policing actions. Another group takes occasional action, while the  majority seem unaware of offending conduct that requires intervention.

The United States, United Kingdom, Germany and Switzerland have the approval of Transparency International again this year for their enforcement actions, and Canada has been recognised for a “significant improvement” in taking enforcement initiatives.  New Zealand was recognised for two investigations which moves it from the rump of 20 Member states that are classed as taking Little or No Enforcement, and now falls into the “Limited Enforcement” group.

The report acknowledges the need for political commitment where national economic interests can be seen to conflict with international anti-corruption commitments, and extensive resources are needed to investigate complex money laundering across borders. It is critical of the time most of the Member states are taking to develop a capacity to give effect to convention obligations – New Zealand, until this year, having been one of them.

There is criticism also that Member states ranked by Transparency International among those having the least corrupt public sectors are apparently uninterested in controlling the corrupting trade practices of national companies that perpetuate corruption in other jurisdictions.

Canada is the only country to show significant improvement since last year’s report, having significantly improved its foreign bribery law and started several investigations.

Nine of the 20 countries with the least public sector corruption are doing little or nothing to make sure their companies follow the same standards overseas, allowing them to contribute to public sector corruption elsewhere. The New Zealand Chapter of Transparency International has called on the New Zealand enforcement agencies “… to sustain their vigilance and take action to deter New Zealanders from paying bribes in any country…”

The Crown Law Annual Report tabled last week, like those of State Services Commission and the Office of the Auditor General continues the pattern of previous years by incorporating international surveys which enable the trustworthiness of New Zealand agencies to rated against comparable jurisdictions.  These include the World Justice Project Rule of Law Index,  the Bertelsmann Sustainable Governance Index, the Worldwide Governance Indicators, and the Corruption Perceptions Index.