Corruption of foreign public agents is legally condemned in the OECD Convention on combating bribery of foreign public officials in the signatory countries. Persons and companies are forbidden from offering bribes in their own, as well as in foreign countries – whatever the local legal framework is. As a result, most companies have adopted public commitments to ban corruption. But this is not sufficient anymore. Businesses need to prove they have dedicated programs to prevent bribery. Can you be sure that a specific program is properly designed and in line with international best practices? What guarantees that a program is known, accepted and respected by employees and business partners? Would external verifications help at all?

Benchmark International Best Practices

The first benefit of an external verification is that it evaluates if a program is consistent with existing best practices – such as Recommendations of the Council for Further Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions, Annex 2; the ISO 26000 norm (section 6.6.3) or TI Business Principles for Countering Bribery. The verification will evaluate that all issues are covered (facilitation payment, gifts, extortions, etc.) but also that the procedures are adapted to the risk identified. Has the company conducted a proper risk assessment? Does the program bring appropriate answers to those risks?

Legal constraints

The second reason for a company to perform an external verification of its program is to be able to provide evidence of its best efforts to prevent corruption. Corruption prevention is the type of subject for which a company can’t guarantee that no corruption instance has occurred or would not occur. Companies can only provide evidence that they have done their best to avoid corruption.

A parallel with health and safety policy highlights can be done. Managers can’t guarantee that they will never face any work accidents within their organizations. Nevertheless a manager should raise awareness of the existing risks; train employees as to the type of behavior expected from them; provide employees with sufficient equipment (personal protective equipment, machinery protection, etc.) and control, on a regular basis, so that they know and respect work safety rules. Implementing such programs contributes to significantly reducing the number of accidents; it also mitigates the legal risk for managers have done their best to protect employees.

For corruption issues, companies should similarly be able to demonstrate that everything has been made to avoid acts of corruption. Analyses of US legal cases demonstrate that the implementation of proper programs may reduce penalties in corruption trials. The recently adopted UK bribery Act also tends to promote proper auditing of the system.

Employees’ and partners’ involvement crucial One challenge for companies is to ensure their employees and business partners respect the rules and apply them all around the world including in countries where the legal constraints are lax. Verifying through audits that employees and partners know and respect processes helps the management to evaluate the level of understanding and implementation of its program. This allows to decide what action plan to implement when weaknesses are identified.

External verification brings a guarantee of independent evaluation of the program with regard to its consistency and its implementation. This strengthens management’s position when measuring the results of its programs.

SGS has put together a dedicated team of compliance experts to conduct such assessments. To go further companies can also apply for a certification of their corruption prevention program with ETHIC Intelligence based on an SGS audit. This is an opportunity for companies to engage in a proactive communication on their commitments and initiatives.

Further information:

Celeste Cornu
Social Responsibility Solutions
Regional Manager EAME South
Anti-Corruption Services Project Leader

t: +33 4 42 61 64 41

About SGS

The SGS Group is the global leader and innovator in inspection, verification, testing and certification services. Founded in 1878, SGS is recognized as the global benchmark in quality and integrity. With more than 64,000 employees, SGS operates a network of over 1,250 offices and laboratories around the world.