Twenty-two of the 41 OECD anti-bribery convention countries have failed to investigate or prosecute any foreign bribery case during the last four years, violating their obligation to combat cross-border bribery.
However, there is some good news, as four countries have improved their enforcement efforts and only one country slid back, says anti-corruption group Transparency International today in its 11th annual progress report on enforcement of the convention.
Sixteen years after the entry into force of the convention, the 2015 progress report shows that only four of 41 countries signed up are actively investigating and prosecuting companies that bribe foreign officials to get or inflate contracts, or obtain licences and concessions. Six countries are classified as having moderate enforcement, while another nine have limited enforcement. The remaining 20 countries are doing little or nothing to ensure their companies do not spread corruption around the world and two countries could not be measured.
“By signing up to the OECD anti-bribery convention, governments commit to investigate and prosecute cross-border corruption, yet nearly half of signatory governments are not doing so,” said Transparency International chair José Ugaz. “The OECD must ensure real consequences for such poor performance. Violation of international law obligations to counter cross-border corruption cannot be tolerated.”
The 20 countries with little or no enforcement make up 20.4 percent of world exports. These countries are failing to investigate and prosecute cross-border bribery due to a lack of political will and inadequate resources allocated toward enforcement measures and investigations. There are 12 convention countries, including some old democracies, where effective political influence or its risk hinders the work of the criminal justice system.
Insufficient sanctions foreseen by law or imposed in practice to deter foreign bribery also hamper enforcement efforts in 21 countries. The OECD Foreign Bribery Report, published in December 2014, indicates that significant sanctions were imposed in only 17 of 41 countries. In Russia, changes to the criminal code in 2015 reduced the size of penalties for receiving or giving bribes, including those relating to foreign officials.
The four leading enforcers (Germany, Switzerland, United Kingdom, United States) completed 215 cases and started 59 new cases from 2011 to 2014. The other 35 countries completed 30 and started 63. Twenty countries have not brought any criminal charges for major cross-border corruption by companies in the last four years.
Since the 2014 progress report, Norway has improved to “Moderate Enforcement” from “Limited Enforcement.” Greece, Netherlands and South Korea have improved to “Limited Enforcement” from “Little or No Enforcement.” Argentina is the only country to decline – moving from “Limited Enforcement” to “Little or No Enforcement.”
Six of the countries in the G20 are in the “Little or No Enforcement” category, meaning they are failing to meet the goals set in the G20’s Anti-Corruption Action Plan 2015-2016.
So as to improve the level of anti-foreign bribery enforcement in the OECD convention countries that account for almost two-thirds of the world exports, it is crucial that civil society and the private sector start national programs that address the shortcomings of their governments.
Breakdown of enforcement levels of OECD anti-bribery convention signatory countries (listed in order of their share of world exports)
Active Enforcement: (four countries) 22.8 %
Moderate Enforcement: (six countries) 8.8%
Limited Enforcement: (nine countries) 12.7%
South Africa **
Little or No Enforcement: (20 countries) 20.4%
Iceland could not be classified, as its share in world exports is too small to permit distinctions to be made between enforcement categories. The same applies to Latvia because of its small share in world exports and the short time since it joined the Convention.
** Without any major case commenced during the past four years, a country does not qualify as being a moderate enforcer, and without a major case with substantial sanctions being concluded in the past four years, a country does not qualify as being an active enforcer.
*** The Convention entered into force in Russia in April 2012, in Colombia in January 2013 and in Latvia in May 2014, so the requirements were lowered proportionately.