Steven Powell of ENSafrica in Cape Town discusses the firm's latest survey
ENSafrica’s third annual anti-bribery and corruption (ABC) survey has revealed that 39% of respondents have experienced incidents of bribery or corruption in the last 24 months. The key question addressed in the survey was whether or not companies are putting proportionate measures in place to deal with the rising risks of bribery and corruption.
During the survey, information was collated from 132 respondents (which marks a 50% increase from the 2015 survey). The increase is indicative of the increased awareness of, and interest in, ABC (especially in Africa). The vast majority of respondents indicated that they do business in Africa (83%), and 26% of respondents indicated that they do business in the United States (US) and in the United Kingdom (UK). The respondents came from a broad range of industries, with financial services comprising the biggest sector (25%), followed by manufacturing, retail and wholesale (24%). Respondents also indicated that they worked in the oil, gas and energy; consulting; telecommunications; mining; transport; IT and electronics; and tourism sectors.
At first glance, the results may suggest that companies are committed to combating the risks of bribery and corruption, with 92% of respondents believing that their companies demonstrated a culture of compliance and 90% indicating that their companies had an ABC policy in place. However, these positive findings were contradicted by the absence of certain important ABC measures. Key concerning findings include the following:
The key findings suggest that a regulator may perceive the commitment of certain companies to ABC as being superficial and unable to pass muster if placed under scrutiny. This could in turn expose companies and senior management to significant legal liability.
For some corporates operating in Africa, there may be a prevailing view that compliance with ABC laws is simply too costly and that business cannot be effectively conducted if stringent controls were to be put in place and enforced. However, former US Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty is quoted as saying: “If you think compliance is expensive, try non-compliance.” In line with this statement, regulators have been dishing out staggering fines in recent years (with US and UK regulators leading the charge). Furthermore, the FBI’s arrest of Samuel Mebiame, the son of a former Gabonese Prime Minister, in August 2016 for allegedly paying bribes on behalf of a US company in Zimbabwe, the Congo and Libya, re-affirms the focus of US regulators on bribery in Africa.
Corporates that believe they can escape the jurisdiction of foreign regulators should be cautious as ultimately there is a global wave of change towards zero tolerance to non-compliance. When it comes to corrupt activities, prevention is better than cure and ABC compliance should be non-negotiable for all corporates operating in Africa.
About the author
Steven Powell is head of ENSafrica’s Forensics Department. He is a renowned specialist white-collar crime prosecutor and forensics lawyer.