TI Rules out Possibility of Publishing TNCs Bribe Payers List

By Finnigan wa Simbeye

The Perspective
Paris, France

May 16, 2002

BACKING down criticism of targeting governments mainly from developing countries with its annual corruption perception index (CPI) reports, global anti-graft watchdog Transparency International (TI) has ruled out the possibility of publishing a 'name and shame' transnational corporations (TNCs) bribe payers list for fear of possible libel suits in case of mistakes.

"No, we can't have the list of companies because according to our guidelines we don't deal with individuals or companies but governments. We are also afraid of prosecution if we make mistakes," TI Executive Director Jermyn Brooks said yesterday while responding to a question by The Perspective (Africa does not need Foreign aid but Committed Leadership - http://www.theperspective.org/committedleadership.html) as to why the bribe payers index (BPI) which is counter CPI report and specifically targetting rich country governments, is vague and falls short of singling out companies widely seen as corrupters of government officials in the developing world.

Brooks told a news conference during a ceremony to launch this year's BPI report that TI is working with companies in setting up guidelines to curb acts of bribery payment to government officials in the developing countries while seeking favours to do business.

Launching the 2002 BPI, TI's founder president Peter Eigen said that the index which has entered its second year, was developed to balance the equation after widespread criticism against the CPI report which many described as being biased as it only addressed the corrupted while leaving corrupters scot with free.

"We are looking at the hand that gives bribes to balance the equation because governments in developing countries felt that our CPI is biased," Eigen said. He insisted that the BPI report involves both small and medium scale (SMEs) enterprises as well as TNCs as surveys are done without specific mention of sizes or nature of foreign companies.

While urging governments of the North, especially member states of the Paris based Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) popularly known as 'the rich man's club,' to enact anti-corruption laws related to the Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions, Eigen said that it's time that foreign companies implicated in acts of bribery be prosecuted by home governments.

The CPI which singles out countries of the developing world whose officials are seen as being prone to asking for bribes from foreign companies, has been a subject of controversy as governments of implicated countries denounce the annual report as a mere mudslinging theoretic document with less credibility to relate to the actual developments on the ground.

"We are asking OECD governments to address this seriously in practice and not just theory. They should mobilise resources, the people and companies against corruption. This unholy alliance between Northern suppliers and Southern elites has serious effects on social services," the TI president charged.

TI France national president Daniel Dommel said this year's surveys which were carried out among 850 residents of 15 emerging economies which includes Nigeria and South Africa against TNCs from 21 developed economies, revealed that there is consensus in the South that TNCs are involved in bribing home government officials in soliciting business favours.

"These company officials should be prosecuted by home governments to send a warning to others from engaging in bribery of foreign government officials," Dommel insisted.

The second BPI report surveys which were conducted by Gallup International Association put Russia, China, Taiwani and South Korea as leading the group of countries whose companies are widely regarded as paying bribes to developing country officials.

The report further said that many industrialised countries which are members of OECD, including the United States which is the only country so far from the 35 member organisation with a law criminalising home companies involved in bribing foreign government officials, are increasingly involved in bribe-paying.

"Politicians and public officials from the world's leading industrial countries are ignoring the rot in their own backyards and the criminal bribe-paying activities of multinational firms headquartered in their countries, while increasingly focusing on the high level of corruption in developing countries," Eigen said in a statement.

The 21 country list is led by Australia which is seen as home to clean TNCs whose executives are less concerned in soliciting favours by advancing kickbacks while Russia is at the bottom of the table with 3.2 points on a scale of 0 to 10 where close to zero ranks bribe-paying gurus. Australia has 8.5 points.

Business sectors which are highly regarded as being prone to kickbacks include; public works and construction, arms and defense which are leading with 1.3 and 1.9 points respectively while light manufacturing and agriculture are less corruptible with 5.9 points each.

TI is due to launch its controversial hair-raising CPI report, which has drawn condemnation from African governments, the end of next month.

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