Canada: Canada Ranks Last Among G7 For Anti-Bribery Efforts

Last Updated: May 26 2011
Article by Milos Barutciski

In the following CTV News interview, Milos Barutciski discusses the report he contributed to from Transparency International that places Canada last among G7 nations in efforts to fight bribery and corruption.

A Berlin-based watchdog ranks Canada last among G7 nations and among the worst of nearly 40 countries worldwide in a report on the state of international efforts to fight bribery and corruption.

Transparency International (TI) says Canada stands among the group of countries that have "little or no enforcement" of the foreign bribery standards established by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development 15 years ago.

"It's less what Canadian companies are doing overseas than what the government has not been doing," Calgary-based lawyer Milos Barutciski, a co-author of the report, told CTV News Channel Tuesday.

Alongside New Zealand and Australia, the report lumps Canada amongst a total of 21 countries that have either only prosecuted minor corruption cases, have conducted investigations without prosecutions or have had no cases or investigations at all.

Compared to the United States, which has prosecuted more than 200 companies and individuals on international bribery and corruption charges, Canada has only seen two -- including the case of an Ottawa man accused of bribery in India. He is due to stand trial this summer.

Barutciski notes that the Canadian government promised in 1997 to enforce criminal laws against bribery in international business when it signed the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention. The convention came into force in 1999.

"But since then there's been only one conviction that was more of a laughing matter, back in the early 2000s, and there's this one active prosecution that began last summer," he said.

After the OECD issued its own scathing report in 2005, the federal government finally established an RCMP Anti-Corruption Unit, with 14 officers. But the TI report says the unit has suffered from inadequate resources.

"While the people of the RCMP and the Crown are excellent and they do good work, there aren't enough of them and they don't have the funds to pursue complex international investigations," Barutciski said.

The other aggravating factors TI suggests are at work in Canada's poor ranking include:

  • a lack of nationality jurisdiction that would allow authorities to pursue Canadians accused of bribery abroad
  • the reliance on criminal, rather than civil or administrative enforcement places a "significant evidentiary burden on all cases"
  • charities are excluded, according to rules that focus solely ion bribery "for profit"
  • the absence of strict rules for keeping "accurate books and records"
  • the legal allowance for "facilitation payments" to foreign officials for acts of a "routine nature" that could be considered part of their jobs
  • the absence of a firm commitment to ignore considerations of national economic interest or political relations when deciding whether to investigate or prosecute foreign bribery

The reoprt says it's unfortunate that Canada has failed to live up to its obligations under the OECD anti-bribery convention because it's by far the largest exporter among the 21 countries studied.

While Canada is singled out for its ongoing failure to crackdown on bribery abroad -- earning the dubious distinction of occupying the report's lowest-ranked category since its first report in 2005 -- this latest release concludes that the overall picture is showing no signs of improving.

All of the countries' rankings have remained static since 2010, the report's authors point out.

"When compared with the record of improving enforcement recorded in TI's six prior reports, the lack of progress in 2010 is disappointing and raises concern that the Convention may be losing momentum," the report states.

"It is particularly disturbing that there are still twenty-one countries with little or no enforcement a decade after the Convention entered into force."

And there is little prospect of that changing, the report continues, unless governments commit to doing so.

"In countries where there is committed political leadership, the OECD's rigorous monitoring programme has helped improve laws and enforcement programmes. However, in the absence of political will, even repeated OECD reviews have little effect."

The report allows some small glimmer of hope for Canada, however, as it welcomes Ottawa's decision to publicly report the number of investigations for the first time.

"It is promising that 23 foreign bribery investigations are under way," the report said. "If these investigations lead to prosecutions, Canada may finally move out of the little or no enforcement category."

According to the latest edition of TI's annual report the individual country classifications break down as follows:

Active Enforcement: Denmark, Germany, Italy, Norway, Switzerland, United Kingdom and United States

Moderate Enforcement: Argentina, Belgium, Finland, France, Japan, Korea (South), Netherlands, Spain and Sweden

Little or No Enforcement: Australia, Austria, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, Czech Republic, Estonia, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Israel, Luxembourg, Mexico, New Zealand, Poland, Portugal, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, South Africa and Turkey

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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