Wednesday 24 January 2018

Government must act urgently to detect foreign bribery, OECD warns

Colm Kelpie

Colm Kelpie

THE IRISH Government must urgently increase its resources to detect and investigate foreign bribery more efficiently, a global economic think-tank has warned.

 

The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) said Ireland had not prosecuted a foreign bribery case in the 12 years since the offence came into being.

Foreign bribery is when an Irish person or company bribes a public official in another country.

And the OECD warned that the gardai has taken few proactive steps to investigate allegations.

There are four publicly known allegations of foreign bribery against Irish companies and nationals that fall within the ambit of the Anti-Bribery Convention, with one case being investigated and three more being assessed, the OECD said.

Its working group on bribery said there were inadequate resources being devoted to foreign bribery cases, blaming the fact that they had been depleted by criminal investigations in the financial sector.

“The working group therefore recommends that Ireland urgently reorganise law enforcement resources in a manner that credible allegations of foreign bribery will be investigated and prosecuted in a timely and effective manner,” the OECD said.

“The group also recommends that Ireland consider how to apply cost effective and simple detection and investigative steps at the earliest opportunity.”

Despite the criticisms the group also commended Ireland and said it had broadened the forms of bribes and expanded the categories of foreign public officials covered by the foreign bribery offence in the Prevention of Corruption (Amendment) Act 2010 (POCA 2010).

Under POCA 2010, Ireland now has jurisdiction over foreign bribery committed abroad by Irish companies and nationals. The sanctions for false accounting offences have increased under the Companies Act 1990.

“The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has been raising awareness among its staff of the Irish foreign bribery offence and how to report possible violations of this law to law enforcement,” the OECD said.

An OECD team visited Ireland between June 24 and 26, made up of lead examiners from Estonia and the UK. Its report said Irish government officials were “frank and forthcoming”, but complained that the officials put forward were not always the right ones and couldn’t fully answer questions. They made “significant efforts” to rectify this, however.

But it said attendance by companies was inadequate, with just one firm present and no representatives of individual accounting and auditing firms.

The group sets out a number of recommendations, including:

:: Urgently reorganise law enforcement resources to ensure “credible” foreign bribery allegations are investigated and prosecuted.

:: Consider how to apply cost effective and simple detection and investigative steps at the earliest opportunity.

:: Harmonise the “confusing plethora of legal provisions on whistleblower protections”, to encourage reporting of foreign bribery allegations.

Ireland will submit a written report to the working group within two years on steps it has taken to implement the new recommendations.

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