Anti-Corruption Compliance Standards And Guidelines: Time for Codification

There are more than 30 anti-corruption compliance standards and guidelines published by various stakeholders worldwide. The obvious question is how organizations, especially SMEs, can navigate in this ocean of varying standards. In the author’s opinion, the professional anti-corruption community should initiate codification of international anti-corruption compliance standards and guidelines.

The United Nations Convention against Corruption of 2003 contains general provisions regarding cooperation with the private sector, promoting integrity and transparency among private entities1. It does not define the structure or formal requirements of an anti-corruption compliance programme.

At the national level, few jurisdictions have published domestic guidelines on anti-corruption (anti-bribery) compliance. In this regard, the international standards and guidelines became important sources for designing and implementing anti-corruption compliance programmes and management systems in organizations.

In general, international standards and guidelines contain recommendations on the following components of anti-corruption compliance:

  • Development of an anti-corruption compliance programme, including risk assessment (risk mapping), defining applicable laws, principles and values, assessment of available resources
  • Communication of an anti-corruption compliance programme
  • Code of Conduct
  • Anti-corruption compliance management system
  • Anti-corruption clause
  • Third party due diligence
  • Third party risk management
  • Mergers and acquisitions
  • Staff recruitment, promotion, and performance evaluation
  • Conflict of interest
  • Gifts and hospitality
  • Charitable donations and sponsorship
  • Political contributions
  • Reporting misconduct and hotlines
  • Internal investigations and addressing violations
  • Cooperation with authorities
  • Training and communication
  • Monitoring, review and evaluation

The International standards on combating money laundering, the financing of terrorism, and proliferation 20122, developed by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) – the main international policy maker in anti-money laundering/countering the financing of terrorism, received widespread recognition. The FATF standards were implemented in domestic laws and regulations of 204 countries3. In contrast to this, none of the standards or guidelines on anti-corruption compliance published by international organizations received global recognition, and provided countries and organizations with detailed framework of anti-corruption compliance in organizations.

The most well-known standard on anti-corruption (anti-bribery) compliance is ISO 37001 – Anti-bribery management systems. The standard has influence on implementation of the anti-bribery management system in organizations and even influence on governmental anti-corruption policies in several countries4. However, it is too early to judge the potential role of ISO 37001 as a global, widely recognized standard at the current stage of implementation.

Furthermore, the comparative study on international anti-corruption compliance standards and guidelines, conducted by the author in 2018-2019 at the International Anti-Corruption Academy (IACA) demonstrated that some components of anti-corruption compliance, e.g. code of conduct and compliance requirements for mergers and acquisitions are not described in most general standards and guidelines. Moreover, recommendations of several guidelines regarding due diligence and risk management are controversial. Only three guidelines contain special provisions for SMEs. A hierarchical system of international standards and guidelines does not exist. We cannot argue that the UNODC Guide is more important than OECD Guidance or ISO Standard 370015. It is very challenging for organizations, especially for SMEs to navigate in the ocean of anti-corruption compliance standards and guidelines and decide which of them are more relevant for designing and implementing anti-corruption compliance programmes.

In the author’s opinion, it is time to open discussion on the systematization and codification of existing international standards and guidelines. Codification can simplify the use of standards and guidelines and support implementation of anti-corruption compliance in various jurisdictions. In the author’s opinion, the international codification can solve several problems:

  • Define standardized terms and definitions
  • Define the recommended structure of a Code of Conduct and anti-corruption compliance programme. The structure may be amended in each case considering domestic laws, regulations, and specifics of an organization
  • Eliminate certain gaps and contradictions in existing standards and guidelines
  • Provide detailed recommendations for SMEs taking into account their realities and resources
  • Integrate pioneering provisions of recently published domestic guidelines and bench-marking reports
  • Integrate applicable recommendations from FATF standards and guidelines developed to prevent and combat money laundering and financing of terrorism
  • The codified standard or guideline may be used for the following purposes:
  • Drafting domestic laws and regulations on anti-corruption compliance
  • Designing and implementing anti-corruption compliance programmes, especially in SMEs
  • Support the implementation of anti-corruption compliance in the framework of Collective Action initiatives
  • Benchmarking of anti-corruption compliance programmes
  • Certification of anti-corruption (anti-bribery) compliance programmes (management systems)
  • Training

The codification process could be led by the most influential in the anti-corruption field international intergovernmental organizations – UNODC and OECD. The author believes that IACA can also provide solid expertise and a serious contribution to the codification. Finally, the participation of business associations, NGOs, Collective Action initiatives and other stakeholders is an important precondition for broad recognition and application of codified standard or guideline.

End notes

1 United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC). 2003. United Nations. Available at: <https://www.
2 FATF, 2012. International Standards on Combating Money Laundering, the Financing of Terrorism and Proliferation (the FATF Recommendations). [pdf]
Paris: FATF. Available at: <http://www.fatf-gaf>
3 Ivanov, E., 2018. AML/CFT and Anti-Corruption Compliance Regulation: Two Parallel Roads? IACA Research Paper Series No. 2/2018. [pdf], p.7. Laxenburg:
International Anti-Corruption Academy (IACA). Available at: < >
4 See, inter alia: Fang, J., 2017. Local Chinese regulator develops anti-bribery management system based on ISO 37001. The FCPA Blog, [blog] 31 July. Available at: <>; Grant-Hart, K., 2017. Singapore adopts ISO 37001. The FCPA Blog, [blog]
18 April. Available at: <>
5 Ivanov, E., 2019. Overview of Anti-Corruption Compliance Standards and Guidelines. [pdf] Laxenburg: International Anti-Corruption Academy (IACA). Available at: < ia/attachments/2020/01/09/overview_of_compliance_standards_and_guidelines.pdf>

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