(February 6, 2013) Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird has announced get-tough-on-corruption amendments to the Corruption of Foreign Public Officials Act (CFPOA). Pat Adams, head of Probe International in Toronto, sees the announcement as Canada’s response to pressure from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). “Canada is supposed to report back on deficiencies in its anti-corruption laws by March of this year. This appears to fix the deficiencies,” she says.
By Terence Corcoran, published by the National Post on February 5, 2013
Rarely have corruption, bribery and other forms of institutional abuse of official and private trust been as hot a topic as they seem to be today. The worst of human nature is on display everywhere, nationally and internationally. Is a crackdown — perhaps long overdue — in the works?
On CBC’s The National, a special report this week on the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, portrayed the most expensive Olympics in history — $50-billion? $64-billion? — as something of a festival of corruption. No baksheesh? No contracts to build roads, facilities, hotels.
Many Russians are speaking out publicly, naming Vladimir Putin as a culprit.
The National Post’s John Ivison just returned from China, perhaps the world leader in the fine arts of greasing palms and backdoor payments. But Communist Party leader Xi Jinping has put corruption at the top of the official crime-stoppers’ agenda. “We must have the resolution to fight corruption at every level, punish every corrupt official and eradicate the soil that breeds corruption,” he told the party’s top governance body.
Not to be outdone, and under international pressure to toughen its laws, Canada is also now on an anti-corruption crusade. Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird Tuesday announced get-tough-on-corruption amendments to the Corruption of Foreign Public Officials Act (CFPOA). Sounding like party boss Xi Jinping, Mr. Baird said his government “expects Canadian business to play by the rules.”
But just in case businesses don’t do that, the minister has something else in mind.
“To signal our commitment and our expectation that other countries do the same, I am pleased to announce that our government is redoubling our fight against bribery and corruption,” Mr. Baird said.
Pat Adams, head of Probe International in Toronto, sees the Baird announcement as Canada’s response to pressure from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). “Canada is supposed to report back on deficiencies in its anti-corruption laws by March of this year. This appears to fix the deficiencies.”
Ms. Adams welcomed the moves, which suggest Canada has come a long way from the 1970s when Jean Chrétien downplayed international corruption as an issue. “Commercial practices in other countries sometimes are different from ours. I am not about to condemn the morals of anybody. It would be very presumptuous for Canadians to tell other people how to conduct their morals.”
Canada signed on to the OECD Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Officials in International Business Transactions more than a decade ago. But a review of Canada’s actions, by experts from Austria and the United States, found “significant issues” with Canada’s implementation of the OECD Convention.
Ottawa’s amendments to the act include a provision that will allow the government to go after bribery by any Canadian individual or company “regardless of where the alleged bribery has taken place.” That would replace current law that limits the government’s ability to prosecute only bribes that take place in Canada.
Canadian penalties for corrupt behaviour will also be increased to maximum jail time of 14 years, up from five years.
The obvious immediate context for Ottawa’s new resolve on corruption is Griffiths Energy International. The Calgary company was hit with a fine of $10-million for having paid cash and shares to corrupt officials in Chad, an African nation, to secure oil and gas contracts.
Another backdrop is the ongoing scandal at SNC-Lavalin, the Quebec-based engineering giant and its links to Libyan projects and members of the Gaddafi family.
Although it’s not as if bribery and corruption are limited to foreign countries. Public works projects in Quebec appear to have routinely seen money change hands. The corruption of city officials in the province is a national scandal rather than a foreign one, but it highlights the fact that corruption knows no borders.
Canada may end up having tougher laws and penalties against corruption of foreign officials than against corruption in Canada.
It is also true that passing tough anti-corruption laws and waving flags of moral indignation often have no serious impact on the ground. Bribery is by nature private and underground. The RCMP in Canada has a thin record of success so far under existing laws, and it is unclear how much that will change under the new ones.
The one common element in 99% of bribery cases is the connection to public institutions and projects. Private-to-private instances of bribery are rare. Public officials and government agencies create the conditions for bribery, from government-controlled oil fields, hydro projects, Olympic developments and state-run trade operations.
Mounting new laws and signing national conventions is one way to tackle the global corruption problem. Until we get governments out of the economy, however, success is likely to be limited and victory a long way off.
Read the original article here.