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Government failing to combat bribery in international business transactions

30 October, 2008 - by Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD

Following today's Dáil debate on the Prevention of Corruption (Amendment) Bill 2008 Sinn Féin Justice Spokesperson Aengus Ó Snodaigh welcomed the broadened definition of corruption beyond money to include the giving of "an advantage" and the extension the categories of person subject to extra-territorial jurisdiction enabling individuals within corporate bodies to be held liable. However Deputy Ó Snodaigh criticised the government for its poor record in combating bribery in international business transactions noting the detrimental effect corruption has on developing countries.

Deputy Ó Snodaigh said:

"Corruption may operate differently in distinct economic climates but wherever the context the price of corruption is always high. In developing countries corruption can mean that aid does not reach those who need it, key infrastructural projects are compromised and ultimately the realisation of the millennium development goals move further out of reach. In the developed world corruption has consequences for businesses and the economy generally and leads to mass public cynicism and political disillusionment.

"The government have a responsibility to stamp out corruption domestically and also to ensure that Ireland and Irish companies are not engaging in corrupt practices abroad.

"The OECD 'Phase 2 report on the application of the Convention on combating bribery of foreign public officials in international business transactions and the 1997 revised recommendation on combating bribery in international business transaction' on Ireland specifically was published last year.

"The OECD concluded that "Ireland had not fully met its Phase 2 monitoring obligations". Their visit "was characterised by very low attendance from key government bodies and private sector representatives, in particular the panels on the awareness, prevention and detection of the foreign bribery offence in Ireland. Adequate information regarding implementation of the foreign bribery offence could not be provided. Moreover, Ireland had not undertaken any awareness raising on the Convention, either internally or targeted at the private sector."

"Transparency International publishes an annual Perceptions of Corruption Index which ranks 180 countries. While Ireland's mediocre score improved marginally this year, since 1995 international perceptions of corruption and ethical standards here have actually worsened.

"There is much room for improvement at home to help combat bribery of foreign public officials. Transparency International's 2007 Progress Report highlights some of the shortcomings here. In relation to Ireland it found:

- We do not have a centralised office or unit for foreign bribery enforcement and level of co-ordination and supervision provided for foreign bribery enforcement is unsatisfactory.

- Our definition of the foreign bribery offence is inadequate.

- The government's efforts to provide publicly-known and accessible procedures for reporting foreign bribery allegations are unsatisfactory.

- Whistleblower protection in both the public sector and the private sector is unsatisfactory.

- The government's efforts to create public awareness that foreign bribery is a crime are unsatisfactory.

- Public access to information about foreign bribery cases and enforcement is inadequate.

- Our corporate anti-bribery compliance programmes are not sufficiently effective.

"But it wasn't all bad the report found our accounting and auditing requirements intended to prevent practices for hiding foreign bribery are satisfactory. Hopefully this Bill will go some way towards addressing the shortcomings highlighted but in and of itself it will not be sufficient.

"We need a culture change.

"Unintelligibly the government shut down the Centre for Public Inquiry and now this pattern of silencing independent watchdog's has been replicated by the current Fianna Fáil/Green Party combo as was evidenced by the devastating budget cuts to the Human Rights Commission's and the Equality Authority's funding." ENDS

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