CONTRARY to popular belief, corruption isn’t the scourge solely of developing countries like the Philippines.
In fact, two-thirds of bribes paid by businesses to foreign public officials took place in countries with medium to very high human development index, including the most developed economies, according to a report by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) on foreign bribery.
“Bribes are being paid across sectors to officials from countries at all stages of economic development,” the OECD Foreign Bribery Report, the first of its kind, said.
The report analyzed 427 foreign bribery cases law enforcers in 17 countries have successfully concluded since the OECD Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions came into force on February 15, 1999.
Forty-one states have signed the convention, which makes bribery in international business a serious crime.
The convention defines foreign bribery as “to offer, promise or give undue pecuniary or other advantage, whether directly or through intermediaries, to a foreign public official, for that official or for a third party, in order that the official act or refrain from acting in relation to the performance of official duties, in order to obtain or retain business or other improper advantage in the conduct of international business.”
The OECD report, which probed the who, what, why, where and how of foreign bribery, identified the Philippines as among 11 countries in Asia where public officials received bribes in international business transactions and became the subject of investigations under the OECD’s anti-bribery convention.
Other Asian countries listed in the report were Bangladesh, China and Chinese Taipei, India, Indonesia, South Korea, Malaysia, Mongolia, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam.
Allegations of foreign bribery had rocked the Philippines in recent years. In 2007, the National Broadband Network deal was canceled over charges of corruption in the awarding of a $329-million contract to China’s ZTE.
The Czech ambassador to the Philippines has accused Metro Rail Transit 3 officials of trying to secure a bribe from a Czech company for expansion of the rapid transit system traversing EDSA.
The 45-page OECD report found that bribes were paid to corner public procurement contracts in 57 percent of the cases and clear customs procedures in 12 percent.
Three of five companies whose representatives bribed foreign public officials were large firms with more than 250 employees, it said.
In more than half the cases, corporate management, including the CEO, paid or authorized the bribe, according to the report. This finding, it said, shatters the “rogue employee myth” and raises the need for a “clear ‘tone from the top’” in enforcing corporate anti-bribery policies.
Two in three of the foreign bribery cases took place in four sectors–extractive, 19 percent; construction, 15 percent; transportation and storage, also 15 percent; and information and communication, 10 percent.
The report said bribes were coursed through intermediaries in three out of four cases. Of these, 41 percent went through agents such as local sales and marketing agents, distributors and brokers and 35 percent through “corporate vehicles” that include subsidiary companies, local consulting firms, companies in offshore financial centers or tax havens or companies formed for the public official who got the bribes.