Transparency International has recently published its 8th annual progress report on compliance with the OECD Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions, adopted in 1997, which requires each signatory country to make foreign bribery a crime.

In relation to enforcement, of the 37 signatory countries included in the report, (which does not cover Russia and Iceland), only 7 countries (which cover 28% of world exports), have been categorised as an ‘active enforcer’ of the Bribery Convention. These 7 countries are Denmark, Germany, Italy, Norway, Switzerland, United Kingdom and United States. The definition of ‘Active enforcer’ differs depending on the size of a country’s exports. If a Country has a share of world exports of 2 per cent or more, to be an ‘Active Enforcer’ it must have at least 10 major bribery cases on a cumulative basis (of which at least three were initiated in the last three years and at least three concluded with substantial sanctions). If a Country has a share of world exports of less than 2 per cent, to be an ‘Active Enforcer’ it must have at least three major bribery cases (including at least one concluded with substantial sanctions and at least one pending case which has been initiated in the last three years).

In 2011/12, the UK had 23 cases and 29 investigations (some under the old law rather than the Bribery Act 2010). According to Transparency International, the other 30 signatory countries fail to show adequate deterrence and fall within the categories of, “moderate enforcement”, “little enforcement” and “no enforcement”, as follows:

  • Moderate Enforcement: Twelve countries with 25 per cent of world exports: Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Finland, France, Japan, Korea (South), Netherlands, Spain and Sweden
  • Little Enforcement: Ten countries with 6 per cent of world exports: Brazil, Bulgaria, Chile, Hungary, Luxembourg, Mexico, Portugal, Slovak Republic, Slovenia and Turkey
  • No Enforcement: Eight countries with 4 per cent of world exports: Czech Republic, Estonia, Greece, Ireland, Israel, New Zealand, Poland and South Africa

As only Active Enforcement provides an effective deterrent to foreign bribery, these figures arguably show that the overall level of enforcement remains inadequate. This is not always the case however. New Zealand is categorised as ‘No Enforcement’, however is perceived to have one of the lowest levels of corruption in the world (see Transparency International’s Corruptions Perceptions Index).

It is likely therefore that the OECD will exert pressure on a number of signatory countries to improve its enforcement, that rigorous OECD monitoring will continue and perhaps that other nations with a significant share of world exports (such as China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, Singapore and Taiwan) will be encouraged to join the OECD Convention.

The full report is titled “Exporting Corruption? Country Enforcement of the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention Progress Report 2012”.