Australia struggles to stop foreign bribery, says report
Foreign bribery wreaks havoc in countries all around the world, according to Transparency International’s new Exporting Corruption report, which finds that Australia continues to lag in attempts to combat it.
“Bribery is one of the most direct and damaging forms of corruption worldwide. It’s a threat to democracy and the rule of law, and a major handbrake on inclusive economic development for people living in poverty,” said Transparency International Australia chief executive Clancy Moore.
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To date, he praised the efforts of the Australian Federal Police to root out corruption. But the fact that the Snowy Mountain Engineering Corporation (SMEC) probe took nearly a decade to get to this point didn’t sit well with Mr Moore. He said that it illustrates how difficult it is to “detect bribery” and “it shows how much more we need to do to support police efforts”.
“As a matter of urgency, we need to pass amendments to the Criminal Code Act, which have been gathering dust on a shelf for too long, and ban ‘facilitation payments’ that can act as bribes.
“We also need to strengthen our anti-money laundering law so that professionals who are more likely to come across dirty money — such as real estate agents, accountants and lawyers — are required to do proper due diligence and report suspicious transactions,” he continued.
Highlighting how, they welcome the government’s commitment to introduce a public registry of beneficial ownership, Mr Moore argued, if done right, this will help uncover dodgy companies, corruption, and conflicts of interest.
The global report by Transparency International also recognises the critical role whistleblowers play in detecting bribery. The report identified inadequate whistleblower protection as Australia’s greatest weakness.
“As our government now considers how it will strengthen whistleblower protections over the coming months, it needs to take note of just how important this reform is to stopping domestic and transnational corruption.
“By implementing these common-sense reforms to shine a light on corruption, and by closing the loopholes in our laws that enable criminals to hide dirty money, Australia can significantly boost our success rate in stopping foreign bribery,” said Mr Moore.
The global report, timed to coincide with the 25th anniversary of the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention, was released just days after the Australian Federal Police charged two former senior managers at SMEC with foreign bribery offences.
“Had these charges been laid a few months ago, it’s possible Australia may have finally broken through to the top category of Transparency International’s major anti-bribery report,” he concluded.