ETHICS : Tackling Bribery and Corruption; When It Comes to Anti-Corruption Policies, New Zealand Companies May Not Be as Good as We Think We Are, Finds Reg Birchfield

Article excerpt

Byline: Reg Birchfield

With recent government-backed moves to encourage Kiwi manufacturers to pitch for US defence equipment contracts and consider a free trade deal with Russia, New Zealand companies should be re-thinking attitudes toward their anti-bribery and corruption policies.

New Zealand boards and executives, particularly those listed in the NZX50, may be taking comfort in the fact that New Zealand is seen as the least corrupt nation in the world by Transparency InternationalCOs (TI) annual Corruption Perceptions Index. The complacency this ranking evokes was revealed recently when a report conducted by the local arm of TI met with a collective corporate shrug, stony silence from the Government and indifference from our stock exchange regulators.

The study, a review of the approach to bribery and corruption by New Zealand businesses, was carried out by the Canberra-based Australian Corporate Analysis, Enhanced Responsibility (CAER) research group. Its findings suggest we may not be as good as we are perceived.

The study, done earlier this year, shows that only 44 percent of companies on the NZX50 have policies prohibiting bribery and only 18 percent have policies on regulating C[pounds sterling]facilitationC[yen] payments. This does not, says the report, C[pounds sterling]compare favourably with the percentage of companies prohibiting bribery in comparable markets overseasC[yen]. For example, of the top 100 companies by market capitalisation in the United Kingdom, 72 percent have explicitly prohibited giving and receiving bribes. In Europe the figure is 57 percent and in the US it is 69 percent.

And it seems few Kiwi companies boost their policy with an adequate system to encourage compliance with anti-corruption policies which, quite frankly, may be putting many New Zealand executives working in off-shore markets at serious personal risk Co witness the Chinese treatment of Rio Tinto executives. …


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