Gradually leaving off the disruption in global health behind, we are all getting ready to contemplate how to cope with the prominent economic fragility emerging post Covid-19. Even though the economic recession tied to Covid-19 has not yet matured, as most businesses slowly begin to ramp up their operations, forecasts about economic cessations will become much more clear, paving the way to improved and responsive regulations for protection of the environments that are ripe for corruption.
Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development ("OECD") has issued a general statement1 calling on all countries around the globe to respect the rule of law, ensure integrity in public procurement, transparency, the effective protection of whistleblowers, and press freedom to fight all forms of corruption under the Anti-Bribery Convention ("Statement") on April 22, 2020.
The OECD Anti-Bribery Convention2 ("Convention") has been in force since 1997 focusing on combatting political and corporate corruption by imposing sanctions and preventive measures against acts of bribery in international business transactions of the member countries. As one of the 44 member countries of OECD who have ratified and agreed to be bound by the Convention, Turkey is also required to implement laws and regulations that conform to the Convention, and provide systematic assessment on the efficiency of the regulatory measures enacted to prevent and prosecute bribery.
Given most countries have different legal systems and structures, the Convention does not mandate that signatory countries use uniform measures to implement its standards. Instead it seeks a consistency in results. To ensure the effective implementation of the Convention, signatory countries adopted an ongoing monitoring process based on the OECD's peer review principles.3
The OECD Working Group on Bribery in International Business Transactions ("Working Group") is responsible for monitoring the implementation and enforcement of the Convention as well as addressing critical issues around low level enforcement practices. During the spurt in Covid-19 cases, Working Group was not able to conduct on-site visits and in-person interviews to monitor how authorities had handled transnational bribery claims. Furthermore, due to the commercial downturn and nature of the crisis calling for urgent attention, the risk for bribery and corruption has increased, requiring this binding Statement be published.
Although in general, public statements issued by the Working Group address a specific country's implementation procedure, this particular Statement serves as the first announcement to be made on a general matter that is binding upon all signatories. This in fact, shows the severity of the matter as it turns out many cases of foreign bribery have been detected in the health industry and corporate world during hardships caused by Covid-19.
"As countries struggle to gather the health and pharmaceutical products needed to fight the Covid-19 epidemic, it is a priority that all actors respect the rule of law and transparency to ensure the most efficient and effective distribution of the products," OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría said in the Statement, highlighting the importance of transparency in public procurement, effective protection of whistleblowers and press freedom.
The Statement further urges the member countries to remain actively engaged in anti-corruption efforts, and to collaborate with each other to win over weakened corruptive practices. As highlighted in the Statement, Working Group will examine the possible impact and consequences of the coronavirus pandemic on foreign bribery, as well as solutions to help countries strengthen their anti-bribery systems, and governments should not neglect their anti-corruption implementation efforts in this regard.
As economic activity resumes, corporate integrity standards and anti-corruption compliance will gain more importance in maintaining an ethically strong culture. Even though most companies have not started operating at full power yet, reporting and detecting misconduct at any stage will be vital for a decent structure.
This article was first published in Legal Insights Quarterly by ELIG Gürkaynak Attorneys-at-Law in June 2020. A link to the full Legal Insight Quarterly may be found here