LONDON (TrustLaw) – Countries failing to enforce the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention should be “named and shamed”, Transparency International’s (TI) Fritz Heimann said, as a report by the anti-corruption organization found that progress in implementing the convention stalled in 2010 for the first time in seven years.
Heimann, a senior adviser on international conventions at TI, and a co-author of TI’s Progress Report 2011: Enforcement of the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention, spoke to TrustLaw on Monday before the release of the report on the convention that aims to make foreign bribery illegal.
WHY HAS ENFORCEMENT OF ANTI-BRIBERY STALLED?
I think one factor has been the recession. There has been a lot of concern that if you enforce foreign bribery laws that will be a disincentive for exporters to try and get orders. I suspect in some countries that has had an effect. Somewhat more indirectly there is less political commitment, whether it’s solely because of a desire to get orders or whether it’s simply that the recession has forced other priorities higher up the scale than dealing with corruption.
SHOULD GERMANY, THE UK AND U.S. PUSH FOR GREATER ENFORCEMENT OF THE OECD CONVENTION?
Absolutely! That’s been the big incentive behind the OECD Convention. With all the big multinational enterprises, the share of business outside their home country has been steadily increasing and in many of the big multinational enterprises more than 50 percent of their business is outside their home country. Increasingly, another effect of the recession is that they’re trying to get more of their business out of emerging markets where we have more corruption problems at present. That’s why it’s critical to get accession to the OECD Convention and also enforcement of the United Nations Convention Against Corruption in the emerging markets.
HOW CAN THE OECD ENCOURAGE INCREASED ENFORCEMENT?
The OECD can’t force anybody to do anything but they are effective in ‘naming and shaming’ which has worked in other areas like the money laundering area. One of the recommendations that we are making is that there needs, over the next 12 months, to be a high level effort involving the Secretary-General of the OECD to sit down with the leaders of the lagging countries to see if he can get agreement on a timetable for becoming more active and have a full review at next year’s ministerial. The ministerial can then assess where things stand. As part of that, there should be a publication of who the lagging countries are.
WHY DO COUNTRIES WITH GOOD REPUTATIONS NOT HAVE THE POLITICAL COMMITMENT TO ENFORCE THE CONVENTION?
There’s probably not a single explanation. Canada, for example – one of its problems is that the criminal law system is administered on a provincial level so the national government simply isn’t organised to deal with this in an efficient way. Technically, Germany has the same thing. The criminal law enforcement is at the Länder (federal state) level but Germany, since the Siemens case, has given this a much higher priority which shows that you can make this work even with a legal system that is below the federal level.