Interviews,  Issue XIX, Mar 2019

Anti-Bribery Tools

We are very proud of your strong ties with IACA and especially with our Alumni association. Can you share with our readers your relationship with IACA and what this means in terms of personal and professional development?

My relationship with IACA started already in 2012 when I was admitted to the inaugural class of the Master in Anti-Corruption Studies (MACS). The graduation in December 2014 marked the end of an exciting and challenging journey with my fellow colleagues from more than 15 countries, during which I developed friendships with some of them so strong that we remain in regular contact until now. The knowledge and experience I gained with the MACS degree form an important basis for my professional work as auditor and advisor.

I am happy to meet participants regularly from other programmes at the Alumni reunions and the Best Of seminar series. These two events are excellent opportunities to engage with and learn from like-minded people, to increase knowledge on contemporary anti-corruption developments, and to keep in contact with professors like recently with Tina Søreide and with Michael Johnston. Having been a member of IACA’s delegation to the Conference of the States Parties (COSP) as the main policy-making body of the United Nations Convention against Corruption broadened my knowledge and enabled me to make important business contacts. I am thankful for the opportunity to contribute to panel discussions and side-events.

But what I am most proud of is my return to IACA as a lecturer. I share my knowledge and experience with dedicated participants of the two flagship master programmes, the IMACC and the MACS, as well as in IACA’s tailor-made trainings. I recently lectured for a group of professionals from the Republic of Korea’s Pharmaceutical and Bio-Pharma Manufacturers Association.

As a contributor to the development of ISO 37001:2016, can you tell us why it is important for the compliance sector? In what way is it a break from the past?

Its contribution to the establishment of a global community of organizations committed to ethical business practices is one of the main reasons why the publication of this voluntary international standard ISO 37001 is a significant event for the anti-corruption compliance sector. It represents an important step towards levelling the playing field. Bribery distorts economic decisions, it brings an unfair advantage to the briber, and impairs companies committed to doing business in compliance with laws. This global standard allows for the recognition of companies committed to doing business with integrity regardless of where their headquarters is located. This development also highlighted the growing concern of compliance officers who wanted to ensure that their programmes are respected as international good practices.

In most jurisdictions it is an offense for individuals to engage in bribery. The growing trend to make organizations liable for bribery is putting responsibility on organizations to proactively establish preventive measures. This can be achieved by an anti-bribery management system, which ISO 37001 is intended to provide. It was not always easy to reach agreement among the working group which consisted of members from all five continents representing 59 countries and various national and international organizations. But the standard confirmed the existence of recognized principles in the prevention, detection, and reaction to corruption, and that cultural differences were insignificant when striving for reaching an agreement.

To what type of business can ISO 37001:2016 be applied?

The requirements of the standard reflect international good practice and can be applied in all jurisdictions. It is applicable to small, medium and large organizations in the public, private, and not-for-profit sectors.

The standard follows the Plan-Do-Check-Act approach and specifies the development and implementation of policies, procedures, and controls which are reasonable and proportionate according to the bribery risks an organization faces in respect to its size, location, or the complexity of its business activities. The recurrence of up to 200 times of the terms “appropriate, proportionate and reasonable” demonstrate the flexibility of the standard in recognition that there is no “one size fits all” approach. This flexibility does not relate to the type but to the extent of measure of in respect to – among others:

  • Developing and communicating an anti-private policy
  • Conducting a bribery risk assessment as basis for developing adequate measures
  • Assigning a compliance function to monitor the implementation of measures
  • Training for personnel and business associates
  • Implementing controls to verify compliance by employees and business associates
  • Establishing reporting procedures and processes to detect and handle actual or alleged bribery cases.

How can anti-bribery tools support business? Can you give us a couple of concrete examples?

The anti-bribery policy and a supporting management system supports an organization to avoid or mitigate costs, risks, and damages of involvement in bribery. If an organization can credibly demonstrate that it has effectively implemented adequate anti-corruption measures, legal sanction and fines may be reduced, and exclusion from business opportunities and allocation of unfavourable business conditions can be avoided. On the other side, effective anti-bribery tools promote trust and confidence in business dealings, provide new business opportunities, and the assignment of preferential conditions and will enhance reputation.

ISO 37001 has been designed for easy integration of anti-bribery measures into existing management processes and controls. Thus, implementation of the requirements of the standard will not result in an increase in bureaucratic processes but will support organizations in their compliance with legal obligations and their commitment to integrity.

What do you see as the upcoming hot topics in the field of compliance?

More publicity should be given to success stories of collective action initiatives. Not necessarily to encourage their duplication, but to stimulate innovation and inspire local initiatives. Collective actions at the initiative of civil society, professional federations, or international organizations help to build trust between companies, government, and civil society.

I am regularly surprised by how many people believe that nothing can be done against corruption. Collective actions demonstrate the opposite. With a few well-intended and determined people it is possible to design and implement solutions which can – slowly – change old patterns of behaviour. Collective actions are not going to reduce global corruption overnight. However, at the local level, or in the given sector, they demonstrate that corruption is not inevitable and that encouraging results can be obtained when actions are tailor-made to address an identified need with achievable goals

What part of your job makes you the proudest of and why?

It is incredibly rewarding to me to observe people outdoing themselves when I challenge their approaches. I would like to explain this on two recent examples.

In the last months I was intensively engaged in supporting the national standardization organizations of Egypt, Jordan, and Palestine in the application of ISO 37001. Preventing and addressing bribery was identified as a priority area for sustainable development within the MENA STAR project funded by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA) and implemented by the International Standardization Organization (ISO). Watching their progress in bribery risk assessment and the subsequent development of adequate measures made me very proud of the members of the working groups, as what they are achieving will support their organizations in becoming role models for public sector organizations in their countries.

The second example relates to my lecturing assignments at the Lauder Business School (LBS) in Vienna. It was a pleasure and honour for me to guide one of my students as supervisor through his master’s thesis project of a comparative whistleblowing study of his home country. His achievements make me proud of him, especially when his excellent thesis was selected for publication to increase the visibility of the research output of LBS. In addition, he will submit his research for consideration under the call for papers for the upcoming OECD Global Anti-Corruption & Integrity Forum 2019 – with a good chance of being selected for a prize.