The Chair of Transparency International, Huguette Labelle, opened an international conference organised by the Canadian embassy in the Baltic States, "Ethics in Democracy", today. In her address, Labelle said that the business world has certain obligations in preventing corruption, and this led to an extensive discussion among conference participants. Labelle said that companies are often "deliverers of corruption" in society, and business people are far too likely to say "yes" when someone asks them for a bribe.
Speaking about the responsibilities of business, Labelle said that business leaders must be expected to have "zero tolerance" policies vis-à-vis corruption. People who handle sums of money that are of public importance must take part in the shaping of their society, as opposed to thinking only about the narrow goal of earning a profit.
The TI chair particularly emphasised the risk of corruption in such areas as construction and public procurement. Labelle said that the area of public procurement in many countries is an environment in which everyone forgets about the concept of ethics. Corruption in the construction industry has to do with millions in bribes. This makes projects more expensive, and the state thus wastes resources that could be put to better use. Labelle also pointed to a conservative statement made by the World Bank recently to the effect that one trillion US dollars are lost in the world of developmental aid each year. The International Monetary Fund, for its part, has said that a comparable sum of money is lost through the process of money laundering.
As chair of TI, Huguette Labelle is also a board member of the UN Global Compact, which speaks to corporate social responsibilities. She particularly emphasised the business principles which TI has developed, pointing to these as a major range of effective instruments which the private sector can use to take part in the fight against corruption.
Tomorrow the TI chair will visit the Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau to meet its leaders. At 3:30 PM, Latvian President Valdis Zatlers will receive Labelle. Afterward there is to be a press briefing.
TI is headquartered in Berlin, and its operations are run by a board whose members come from all over the world. TI Latvia founder and former chair Inese Voika was a member of the TI board from 2003 until 2005.
The last meeting between TI leaders and Latvian government officials occurred in 2004, when the then prime minister of Latvia, Indulis Emsis, requested a meeting with the then board chair of TI, Peter Eigen. He wanted to complain about protests which TI Latvia was making against his nomination of Ingrīda Ūdre to become a member of the European Commission.
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