Opening address to a conference on "Improving Governance and Fighting Corruption: New Frontiers in Public-Private Paternerships"
Angel Gurria, OECD Secretary-General
Brussels, 14 March 2007
Your Royal Highness, Ministers, Ladies and Gentlemen.
Given its negative impact on economic growth and development, fighting corruption has been one of OECD's highest priorities for more than a decade. Our main objective is to establish high standards of behaviour that will help individuals, businesses and governments to prevent and fight this crime.
The OECD is the leading source of expertise in anti-corruption efforts in areas such as public procurement, conflict of interest, export credits, tax systems and corporate governance. Our aim is to improve transparency and accountability in the public sector and to promote responsible behaviour in the private sector. We also work towards improving governance through development assistance and we reach out globally to help curb corruption in dozens of non-member countries.
On the "supply side", our main weapon is the Anti-Bribery Convention. It is also an example on how a well designed international instrument can help change the rules of the game. Established in 1997, its main goal is to make bribery a crime and to provide a level playing field for doing business cross-border, which was absent before its enactment.
Through the Convention, we have set in motion visible commendable progress in the last ten years, and raised awareness and expectations around the world. Governments have passed new anti-bribery laws and created special investigation and prosecution units. Multinational companies on every continent have changed the way they do business and are facing greater public scrutiny. We have also effectively established what Transparency International calls "the gold standard" of monitoring and evaluation to ensure its effective implementation, an indispensable complement to the letter of the Convention itself.
Thanks to the Convention, offering bribes is no longer business as usual. Nor can they be claimed as a tax deduction any longer. We now have a common yardstick to assess governments' performance, and an effective global, anti-corruption standard. We have additionally created a forum where the compliance of international legal commitments against corruption by individual countries are periodically reviewed by their peers. All of this is allowing us to gain ground against international corruption.
Yet we cannot rest on our laurels. Countries must be more proactive in investigating and prosecuting foreign bribery. While some countries have obtained convictions and applied major sanctions against offenders, many others have yet to open their first investigation. The Convention will be as strong and as effective as its Members want it to be.
Both in the case of the Convention, as well as in many other areas in which we are working to eliminate corrupt practices, we do need much more help. It is critical that public administrations clearly understand the importance of stamping out corruption and creating more accountable and transparent institutions.
We are working with the United Nations to help implement its Convention against Corruption, which covers also the "demand side" of the problem. The tragedy in developing countries is that corruption is the cause of wrong policy decisions and procurement choices that cost them many times more than the perpetrators take home and that often affect thousands or even millions of people. Through the DAC and the Development Centre, the OECD will continue to work in this effort with multilateral donor agencies, including the World Bank and regional development banks, as well as national donor agencies. We will continue to work with business groups and to encourage their adoption of strict codes of conduct and adherence to our Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises, which also promote ethics in business. And we will continue developing effective tools and promoting transparency in several other areas of public and private governance like procurement, especially in countries with weak institutional capacity.
All of us stand to benefit from a global economy where bribery and corruption have been ruled out. Corporations want to seek business opportunities based on the price, quality and pertinence of their goods and services, instead of having to look over their shoulders to check if their competitors are offering bribes to get the contract. Taxpayers want assurance that their taxes are reaching the people they were designed to help, and not being siphoned off into secret bank accounts. And the people in the developing world need to know that the aid they are expecting to receive is being used to maximum effect.
These are the goals. Strong laws and even stronger political will in our countries, as well as invariable ethical behaviour by our businesses will help us achieve them.