Finland, Slovenia and Belgium must increase anti-graft efforts, says OECD

By on 01/03/2016

The OECD has called on Finland, Slovenia and Belgium to increase anti-corruption efforts.

The three countries are among 41 nations which signed the OECD’s Anti-Bribery Convention which establishes legally binding standards to criminalise foreign bribery – a term describing companies which offer, promise or give a bribe to a foreign official to win advantages in an international business transaction, such as winning a construction contract, an oil or gas concession, or an operating license.

The convention, which seeks to create a corruption-free level playing field for global trade, came into force in 1999, but there are still many countries which have failed to implement it or only done so with limited scope.

Anti-corruption campaign group Transparency International raised the issue last year. It said: “Foreign bribery is not an abstract phenomenon; it has damaging consequences in the form of contracts not going to the best qualified suppliers, prices often being inflated to cover bribe payments, environmental requirements not being enforced and taxes not being collected.”

Last week, the OECD Working Group on Bribery wrote to Finland, Slovenia and Belgium calling for the convention to be implemented.

Finland

It expressed its “serious concern with Finland’s continued failure to implement the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention” and said it was “troubled by the difficulties that Finland has encountered in effectively enforcing its laws against the bribery of foreign public officials.”

The Nordic country only implemented six of 19 recommendations the OECD made five years ago to promote the prevention, detection, and prosecution of foreign bribery offences.

The working group said it was “disappointed by Finland’s lack of real progress”, and said the government had failed to introduce “genuine whistle-blower protections for those who report suspected instances of foreign bribery” and called on it to “implement all outstanding recommendations “without further delay.”

Companies “are still not liable for false accounting offences”,  the group said, adding that it “remains concerned with Finland’s poor enforcement record.”

A spokeswoman for the Finnish government told Global Government Forum that it had commissioned a number of working groups to evaluate and “where needed, implement the outstanding recommendations.”

She added: “It goes without saying that Finland takes the criticism expressed seriously. Finland does acknowledge that continued anti-corruption work is required and needed, and looks forward to continued excellent cooperation with the OECD Working Group on Bribery in this regard.”

Slovenia

In Slovenia, the OECD raised doubts over the independence and effectiveness of the Commission for the Prevention of Corruption (CPC).

CPC is not normally subordinate to any state institution or ministry. But in a 2014 evaluation of the organisation, the OECD raised concern over possible political interference in its operation, and resources.

Since then, the working group said, “no reform has materialised” and the “CPC continues to face important challenges in carrying out its duties.”

“Given the seriousness of these issues, the working group calls on Slovenia to urgently take all appropriate measures to address the situation of the CPC and ensure that the CPC can implement its mandate in full independence and with the appropriate resources,” the group said adding that it expects progress by June this year.

The Slovenian government rejected the OECD’s finding that no measures had been taken to address its concerns raised in 2014.

A government spokesman told Global Government Forum that the minister of public administration has appointed an interdepartmental working group “to draft amendments concerning integrity and the prevention of corruption”, in order to address “some ambiguities in the legislative basis of the work of CPC.”

He also said that since 2014, the CPC had its workforce increased from 36 to 41 now and its budget boosted from 1,559,000 to 1,703,169 euros this year.

Belgium

In a 2013 evaluation of Belgium’s anti-graft efforts, the OECD working group made 30 recommendations “to intensify its actions to fight bribery of foreign public officials and to this end, undertake important reforms.”

The recommendations included a call for reform of the limitation period applicable to the foreign bribery offence; private sector whistleblower protection; and the allocation of adequate resources to law enforcement and judicial authorities to prosecute transnational bribery.

Of its recommendations, the group said, only five have been fully implemented, adding that none of the “essential modifications” it proposed are “envisaged by the Belgian authorities.”

The group said it “remains concerned by the low proactivity of authorities in cases involving individuals or companies for actual or alleged acts of foreign bribery.”

“While recognising the work already accomplished by Belgium with respect to awareness raising and training, the working group strongly encourages Belgium to take the necessary measures to bring about the various reforms underway as soon as possible.”

Belgium will provide a written report to the working group on its progress in October.

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See also:

Tanzanian officials suspended over corruption investigation

Nordic countries perform best in global corruption ranking

Nigeria’s top officials are warned over corruption, again

Mexico must up efforts to prevent corruption in $9bn airport project, says OECD

About Winnie Agbonlahor

Winnie is news editor of Global Government Forum. She previously reported for Civil Service World - the trade magazine for senior UK government officials. Originally from Germany, Winnie first came to the UK in 2006 to study a BA in Journalism & Russian at the University of Sheffield. She is bilingual in English and German, and, after spending an academic year abroad in Russia and reporting for the Moscow Times, Winnie also speaks Russian fluently.

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