Export Credit Agencies

‘Few countries have much mettle for enforcing anti-bribery laws’

(February 27, 2006) According to Probe International in Toronto, Germany and Japan are challenging efforts to tighten anti-corruption guidelines covering companies supported by official export credit agencies.

The bribery controls contained in the draft action statement
drawn up by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
(OECD), were expected to be agreed in March after the release of a
weaker statement issued more than five years ago.

However, objections by Germany, Japan and a number of smaller countries
have raised fears that a final decision on the new anti-bribery rules
could be delayed. According to a report by the Financial Times, Germany
and Japan are arguing that the OECD’s tougher rules are too
bureaucratic.

But their stance could prove embarrassing, as both countries supported
the decision by the Group of Eight industrialised nations at the
Gleneagles summit last July to ensure that export guarantees are not
used in projects where companies have been found guilty of paying
bribes.

A report published by the BBC says that Germany is opposing plans to
require exporting companies to disclose the identity of their overseas
agents when seeking export credits or guarantees. Such agents are
sometimes suspected of passing on bribes in order to facilitate deals.

But, says the German submission, “it is highly questionable whether
their revelation is a proper tool for detecting bribery.” Japanese
officials agree and argue that “excessive responsibilities or roles”
should not be imposed on export credit agencies. Transparency
International is also sceptical about the effectiveness of the measure
because, it argues, ways to pay bribes are becoming ever more
imaginative and those determined to bribe will not be deterred by the
potential threat of having to reveal agents’ commissions.

Meanwhile, OECD is being urged by ECA-Watch which is monitoring the
activities of the export credit agencies to disqualify companies
convicted of foreign bribery from receiving publicly subsidised export
credits. In a briefing paper they note that “no OECD Member State
reviewed so far has taken the step, proposed under Article 3 of the
OECD Anti-bribery Convention, of imposing administrative sanctions in
the form of temporary or permanent exclusion from export credit
support, on any sort of automatic basis.”

Even the OECD’s own examiners who have been investigating each member
country’s implementation of the OECD Convention to combat bribery agree
with the NGOs, arguing that the “threat of suspension or refusal of
coverage, or the risk of seeing their names on a blacklist, would be
powerful deterrents for companies dependent on exports.”

In fact, says Probe International’s Patricia Adams,
with the exception of the U.S., few countries have shown much mettle
for enforcing their laws against bribing foreign officials. When they
do, she says, “that’s when we will see a real drop in the incidence of
bribery in international projects.”

CIOB International News (The Chartered Institute of Building), February 27, 2006

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