Since the adoption of the OECD Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Official’s in 1999, corruption prevention has become a key topic of concern for businesses of all size and scale worldwide. The convention invoked a change in approach whereby responsibility was refocused onto those paying bribes rather than attempting to tackle recipients, regardless of local legal frameworks. Companies have therefore responded and developed anti-bribery programmes to control their risk, prevent misconduct and to comply with the direction of, both, domestic and extra-territorial regulation and legislation (in particular, FCPA and UK Bribery Act).

But how can a business be sure that a programme is properly designed and in line with international best practices? How can a business guarantee that a programme is known and respected by employees and business partners? Would external verification assist in this perspective?

Benchmark Your Business Against International Best Practices

External verification evaluates whether a programme is consistent with existing global best practices. Numerous guidance documents have been issued over the past years to assist companies in the establishment of proper bribery prevention - the OECD Good Practice Guidance on Internal Controls, Ethics, and Compliance , the revision of the International Chamber of Commerce Rules on Combating Corruption and the UK Bribery Act Guidance . Hopefully those recommendations converge with and complement the various preexisting recommendations in place. Some fundamental principles are clearly recognized by all stakeholders as essential to all bribery prevention programmes:

  • A clear “Tone from the Top”;
  • A regular and documented bribery risk assessment;
  • A set of policies defining rules on what is acceptable with particular attention to gifts and hospitality, charitable and political contributions, sponsorship, facilitation payments – and any other specific risks;
  • An internal organisation (in terms of management responsibility, approval processes and budget);
  • Proper management of business partners - especially sales business partners;
  • Regular communication and training about the risks, legal constraints and policies of the organisation;
  • Proper internal controls, especially regarding finance, procurement and other commercial controls;
  • An alert system enabling employees to raise concerns or cases of bribery.

External verification evaluates whether all such issues are covered by a company’s programme and that the procedures are adapted to the risks identified.

Legal Constraints

Another reason for a company to undergo an external verification is to obtain tangible evidence of their best efforts to prevent corruption.

Bribery is a hazard to, and fraud against businesses and as such businesses will never be able to guarantee that bribery has not or will not occur. Consequently, the key defence is to provide evidence that they have implemented proper procedures to limit such fraud and corruption – similar to the approach seen in common practice for health and safety programmes. Companies are required to demonstrate that they don’t just have a “paper programme”, moreover they must show that each programme is implemented, reviewed and revised in an effective manner.

Analysis of FCPA enforcement action demonstrates that the implementation of a suitable and appropriate programme reduces potential penalties in cases of such frauds occurring. The UK Bribery Act also stresses that ‘adequate procedures’ may constitute a ‘full defence’.

How To Go Further?

The external verification of an anti-bribery programme can be progressed and developed, by applying for certification. Certification demonstrates that an anticorruption programme has obtained a specific level of development and capability. Such certifications provide the opportunity to tangibly communicate about a business’ commitment toward corruption free business practices.

Certification is also important internally to stress the importance given to the anti-bribery programme and involve all employees in a full anti-bribery management system.

For example companies may be certified against the ETHIC Intelligence Certification scheme or the BS 10500:2011 British Standard.

For further information on SGS Corruption Prevention Services contact: anti-corruption@sgs.com.

Céleste Cornu
Anti-Corruption Services
Global Manager - CTS
SGS France
t: +33 4 42 97 78 51