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Efforts to curb foreign bribery remain inadequate

The number of countries enforcing a ban on foreign bribery has shown continuous progress in the last six years, with countries representing more than half of world exports taking action, according to a new report by Transparency International (TI). However, there are still twenty countries that have taken little or no action.

TI’s report shows that 7 of the 36 countries evaluated are actively enforcing the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention to which they are party. These countries represent approximately 30 per cent of world exports. The increase from four to seven actively enforcing countries since TI’s 2009 report is a very positive development. The 2010 TI report also shows moderate enforcement in nine other countries which account for 21 per cent of exports. The 20 countries with little or no enforcement represent about 15 per cent of world exports.

Denmark, Italy and the United Kingdom have advanced from moderate to active enforcement. Argentina has advanced to moderate enforcement. Canada, a member of the Group of 8 industrialised nations, has little or no enforcement.

In the six years since TI began reviewing implementation of the OECD ban on foreign bribery, enforcement has doubled from eight to sixteen countries. That represents important progress. However, it is disturbing that 20 countries still show little or no enforcement. The difficult economic environment is no excuse for OECD governments to ignore their collective commitment to stop foreign bribery. To the contrary, cleaning up foreign bribery must be regarded as a key part of the reforms needed to overcome the worldwide recession.

One third of world exports come from countries that are not party to the OECD Convention. The increasingly important role played by China, India and Russia in the global economy cannot be ignored. As their share of world trade is growing, it is essential that these countries play by the same rules as other major exporters. TI urges the OECD to expedite its ongoing efforts for additional governments to join the convention.

To make real gains in the fight against foreign bribery, the OECD must exert high-level political pressure on lagging countries coupled with peer pressure from the leaders of countries that are actively enforcing the convention.

Key Results

Category Percentage of world trade Countries
Active Enforcement ( 7 ) 30% Denmark, Germany, Italy, Norway, Switzerland, United Kingdom, United States
Moderate Enforcement ( 9 ) 21% Argentina, Belgium, Finland, France, Japan, Korea (South), Netherlands, Spain, Sweden
Little or No Enforcement ( 20) 15% Australia, Austria, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, Czech Republic, Estonia, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Israel, Mexico, New Zealand, Poland, Portugal, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, South Africa, Turkey

The last few years have seen a substantial increase in the number of foreign bribery cases that have been resolved by negotiated settlements. While settlements can avoid the long delays, high costs and unpredictable outcomes of litigation, it is essential that settlements be accompanied by full transparency. TI urges OECD governments to adopt procedures for independent judicial reviews, the publication of settlement terms, evidence, and other measures to ensure satisfactory punishment of guilty corporations and individuals.

The 2010 Progress Report on the OECD Anti-bribery Convention is the sixth in a yearly series and examines the enforcement performance of 36 of the 38 countries that have ratified the OECD Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions. It is based on information provided by TI experts and includes detailed case studies of prominent foreign bribery cases involving multinational companies. The 2010 report also covers country performance in areas such as the adequacy of laws and systems, the requirements and enforcement of export credit agencies, and access to information on foreign bribery cases.

Transparency International is the civil society organisation leading the fight against corruption

Note to editors: A full table with the number of cases and investigations per country as well as detailed country reports are included in the full report available here.

In June 2010, the OECD published its first report on the level of enforcement by convention signatories since its entry into force in 1999.

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