Responding to the growing problem of corruption: why are we not doing better?
Chair: Martin Gill
Robert Brooker – Head of Fraud and Forensics at PKF GM (UK)
David Armond CBE, QPM – Former Deputy Director General at the NCA (UK)
David Armond has worked on tackling corruption both as a former senior police officer and subsequently as a consultant. As he notes corruption takes many forms to a police officer accepting a free meal with an expectation for something in return, to organised crime involvement and high-level money laundering. It has serious consequences, for example, it erodes public confidence and undermines the ability to operate fairly. It is also extremely lucrative at the upper ends with vast sums being redirected to meet criminal ends. It impacts on all sectors and is facilitated by a range of professionals from lawyers, police officers and accountants. David discusses the response framework and notes that the law is largely fit for purpose (referencing the UK as an example), and while the resources of a range of agencies are committed to tracking offenders there can never be enough. Often non legal responses have a role, such as negotiating trade agreements with countries where bribery is an issue can be aided by building in a capacity to meet a requirement for tougher corruption compliance mechanisms. More generally organisations need to set examples, as do countries, and commit to ethical practices, that is where prevention needs to start and there is evidence that a lot of progress has been made.
Robert Brooker notes that corruption pervades many industries and has been highly visible in both sport and politics. You will see and hear him discuss the causes with reference to poverty, greed, unemployment, even the need for a job. Robert also feels the legal mechanism is sufficient, the issue rests in part with a lack of resources to tackle the problem, and partly because it is difficult. He gives the example of the considerable amount of time investigations can take, and they are complex too, and they are not always successful. That said, he values the deterrent effect and feels it is working. Companies do worry about the reputational damage of being caught, the views of shareholders and the decisions that can be made by clients; they do worry about bad publicity. While companies can do more he re-iterates the point that prevention starts with a good governance regime, a culture of compliance enforced from the top. Too often compliance is a tick box exercise, with a minimalist approach taken and this needs to be a focus of preventive efforts. Robert discusses Deferred Prosecution Agreements (he is broadly positive), and ISO37001 focussed on tackling bribery (and again is broadly positive), but as he emphasises ‘culture matters’ and we should highlight that.
Previous webinars lend support to the view that corruption has been allowed to flourish. This panel pointed to positives in the response, an established legal framework, different law enforcement agencies focussed on collaborating and enforcing, governments building compliance regimes into trade deals, and some companies setting good examples. The consensus was that we have made progress but we need to increase understanding of the causes and the facilitators as a route to generating a focussed response. This is work in process.
18th February 2021