News

Once More with Feeling!

March 07, 2011 News

I don't know how many of you folks out there know that a serious anti corruption effort had recently been launched by the private business sector. The Integrity Initiative is being pushed by the European Chamber of Commerce, Makati Business Club, Management Association of the Philippines and similar high profile business groups.

Corruption continues to be one of the biggest impediments to economic growth and prosperity in the country, and it has been eroding the moral fiber of the nation, the MAP statement said.  They said they couldn't have launched such a drive during the last administration P-Noy's Daang Matuwid, they said, captures the spirit of their drive.

They want local corporations to make a commitment by signing an Integrity Pledge.  Then they are trying to convince government not to entertain any business deals with companies who have not signed the Integrity Pledge.  I am not sure if
this is legal but sounds good to me. 

I love the good intention and I hope they make headway.  Even if we think they have a snowflake's chance in hell, we have to like the enthusiasm of the private business sector's response to P-Noy's Daang Matuwid challenge.

Henry Schumacher of the ECCP who is spear heading the drive is under no illusions.  But he is one determined crusader who believes he has succeeded even all he did was to simply put pressure on everyone to behave.  Because he has lived in
this country longer than most Filipinos have lived on this earth, Henry is practically a Filipino who genuinely feels he has a stake in seeing the effort achieve some level of success.

The Integrity drive has netted 400 local companies signing the pledge so far.  But they are not stopping there.  They will hold integrity circles in the offices to clarify what the drive wishes to achieve and how. 

The Integrity Initiative drive was given a big boost this week by the visit of a British government official who gave a briefing on a new British Anti Corruption Law.  Nick van Benschoten of the UK Government Department for Business Innovation and Skills gave the local British Chamber of Commerce a presentation on the new law and how it would affect their operations.

The British Bribery Act 2010 is something like the America's Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and a similar edict from the European Community.  I get the impression the new law is pretty strict and from a practical perspective, could make British
businesses less competitive in environments such as what we have here.  Then again the Brits are in fact a little late with this law because the Americans and the European Community have had such a statute in effect some time ago.

The law is like a wide spectrum antibiotic in that it covers a wide area of infection.  A failure to prevent a corrupt act from happening is already a violation.  There is also a new broad level of liability for connivance or consent for a corrupt act for members of a firm's Board of Directors.

The law focuses on active bribery which it defines as an offer of advantage to induce improper performance.  That led a businessman to ask if giving token amounts to low level bureaucrats to make paperwork flow faster covered by the rule.  He said he is not inducing improper performance just for the bureaucrat to perform his job faster.

Yes, that's covered in the Bribery Act.

Van Benschoten however made a point that the law will consider cultural differences across nations.  The law he said is not out to impose "moral imperialism".  The law does not impose a British standard of ethics and morality beyond its shores.  That may prove tricky.  This could be a good loophole.

The law it was explained will consider corrupt such acts that are considered corrupt under local laws.  That should be good enough for our purposes because we do have good anti corruption laws If we can t implement our laws the developed countries will implement these for us on their citizens and companies.

But wouldn t that put American British and European companies at a disadvantage here Unless the major economic powers in our part of the globe, China, Japan, and South Korea implement similar laws the Western companies will lose a lot of business.

This Integrity Initiative deserves our support Let us see how things work... once more with feeling.

 

Source: The Philippine Star, Business, 04 March 2011