How to Unmask Phoney Anti-Corruption Measures

Jean-Pierre Méan

By Jean-Pierre Méan 
Published on Tuesday October 23, 2018


With anti-corruption management systems such as ISO 37001 being currently en vogue it is not surprising that some actors may want to use them not as tools to prevent corruption but as instruments to pretend to prevent corruption or to cover up continuing poor practices with a veil of respectability. Here are a few ideas on how to unmask such subterfuges.

The form and shape of an organization’s anti-corruption policy may give some indication of the seriousness of its anti-corruption efforts. Some organizations, including those looking for an alibi system, seem to view anti-corruption as a legal problem that needs to be approached with definitions, clauses and subclauses without end. However, anti-corruption is to a large extent about attitudes and values. To communicate these does not take a lengthy convoluted narrative in legal language. If a simple straightforward message on attitudes and values is not understood, an avalanche of legal verbiage will not help.

There is a consensus that leadership is essential to the success of an anti-corruption system. Leadership is not something that can be evaluated on the basis of a documentary review. It takes interviews with the organization’s leaders, the Chairman, the CEO and maybe others to get a sense of their commitment. Are they accessible for such interviews? How much do they know about their anti-corruption policy? Do they see it as (also) their responsibility rather than that of their Compliance department? Have they manifested their support for it towards their personnel and the public at large ? Do they often discuss it with the Compliance Officer and Management?

The existence of confidential channels to raise concerns and of a speak-up culture is also an important building stone of an anti-corruption system. How does the organization deal with concerns that are raised? Is confidentiality taken seriously? Are reports of suspected acts of corruption investigated? Are corrective measures implemented and where appropriate disciplinary measures imposed?

In many organizations, the use of agents, consultants or other intermediaries is a sensitive area with respect to corruption. In a majority of corruption cases that have become public, the corrupt payments were made through such intermediaries. How the due diligence is conducted before hiring them and how they are remunerated are strong indicators of the organization’s commitment to anti-corruption.

Last but not least, an organization’s commitment to its anti-corruption policy may find its expression in supporting, and taking part in, anti-corruption initiatives at sector, country or international level. How much energy and time is devoted to such efforts gives an indication of how important they and anti-corruption are to the organization.

All other elements of an anti-bribery management system may also provide indications that reveal whether an anti-bribery management system is for real or not. One-sided focus on certification may also indicate that obtaining a certificate of compliance is all that counts for an organization while organizations seriously engaged in the prevention of corruption will focus on the implementation of their system and welcome certification not as a goal but as the crowning of their efforts.





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One Comment

  1. Excellent summary

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