Existence of Convention is a Success but a true Victory against Bribery Requires Full Implementation
As Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi and OECD Secretary General Angel Gurría host officials from across the world to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention in Rome today, Transparency International (TI) joins in recognising the importance of this Convention. TI also called for strong measures to ensure that the majority of signatory countries finally start to enforce the Convention, noting that there are 37 signatory governments to the OECD Convention, but substantial compliance has only been achieved by 14 of them.
“This has been the most important and groundbreaking international convention aimed at curbing the bribery of foreign government officials by multinational corporations and it is a success to have it,” said TI Chair Huguette Labelle. She stressed, “We need to use this tenth anniversary to urge the more than 20 countries with little or no implementation to take action. Victory will come only with full implementation.”
Labelle’s comments reflect the concerns of TI’s global movement with national chapters in almost 100 countries. During its annual membership meeting held in late October, the TI movement adopted a resolution stating that the future of the OECD Convention is in doubt due to a serious lack of political commitment by over half the signatory governments.
Transparency International calls on the signatory governments represented in Rome today to:
- Take action at the Ministerial level to ensure that lagging governments comply without further delay.
- Prevent the use of national security considerations as a reason for not prosecuting foreign bribery.
- Maintain a vigorous monitoring programme until there is active enforcement by all signatories.
In comments prepared for the Rome meeting today, to which TI has been invited, Huguette Labelle emphasised that, “The coming into force of the Convention was a singular achievement. It was the first international pact that forcefully committed the world’s leading industrial nations to jointly attack the crime of corporate bribe-paying to foreign government officials. It must not be allowed to fail.”
“Looking at the leading exporting countries, we find increasingly aggressive investigations and prosecutions by French, German and US authorities. But, there has not been a serious prosecution under the national laws based on the Convention in either Japan or the UK,” noted Labelle. Corporations should also act immediately to end the practice of “grease payments” or so-called facilitation payments that are outright bribes.
While Germany has demonstrated zeal in investigating and prosecuting Siemens AG for massive international bribery, the UK government quashed an investigation into alleged large-scale bribery by BAE Systems to secure contracts from Saudi Arabia with the unacceptable excuse that this endangered national security. The Convention contains no provision for a national security exception. The recent ruling by the British High Court ordering a full judicial review of the UK government’s decision to terminate the investigation into the allegations of bribery by BAE is a welcome development.
Pointing to the benefits of implementation, Labelle stated that “the Convention’s success can yield great benefits, curbing the supply side of international corruption and thereby, for example, contributing to the alleviation of poverty in many nations. Failure, however, will also do immense damage to the cause of economic development and international trade,” said Labelle.
There is no evidence to suggest that there has been a decline in the supply-side of bribery to crooked government officials by business since the Convention was agreed upon in 1997. This despite the fact that leaders of the Group of Seven major industrial countries have rightly and repeatedly called for greater international actions to curb corruption, and that mounting public concern about corruption has resulted in the adoption in 2003, of the United Nations Convention against Corruption. Additionally, increasing support for TI’s Business Principles to Counter Corruption by corporations suggests that most firms would welcome greater enforcement of the OECD Convention, as they prefer to compete on fair and honest grounds, rather than in markets rife with bribes and kickbacks.
Note to Editors:
A press conference with TI Chair Huguette Labelle and Fritz Heimann, Senior Advisor to TI, will take place on 21 November 2007 at 2.00pm local time.
Location: Scuola Superiore di Policía, 3 Via Pier della Francesca, Rome.
To read TI’s 2007 Progress Report on OECD Convention Enforcement please click here.
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